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POPULAR  HANDBOOK -OF 
INDIAN  BIRDS 


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POPULAR  HANDBOOK  OF 
INDIAN  BIRDS 


BY 

HUGH  WHISTLER,  F.Z.S. 

LATE  INDIAN  (IMPERIAL)  POLICE 


FOURTH  EDITION 
REVISED  AND  ENLARGED  BY 

NORMAN  B.  KINNEAR 

BRITISH  MUSEUM  (NATURAL  HISTORY)  LONDON 


llustrated  with  twenty-four  full-page  plates  of  which  seven 
.    are  coloured,  and  one  hundred  and  eight  figures 
in  the  text,  from  drawings  by  H.  Gronvold 
and  Roland  Green 


GURNEY    AND  JACKSON 
LONDON:  98  GREAT  RUSSELL  STREET,  W.C. 
EDINBURGH:  TWEEDDALE  COURT 
1949 


FIRST  PUBLISHED  ....  1938 

SECOND  EDITION  ....  1935 

THIRD  EDITION  ....  1941 

FOURTH  EDITION  ....  1949 


MADE   IN    GREAT    BRITAIN    BY 
OLIVER   AND    BOYD    LTD.,   EDINBURGH 


PREFACE  TO  THE  FOURTH  EDITION 

THE  Popular  Handbook  of  Indian  Birds  was  first  published  in  1928, 
followed  by  a  second  edition  in  1935,  and  a  third  in  1941.  This 
last  edition  was  becoming  exhausted  when  the  author  died,  and 
Mrs  Whistler  asked  me  to  prepare  this  new  edition.  Mr  B.  B. 
Osmaston,  who  has  such  a  wide  knowledge  of  Indian  birds  and  their 
habits,  has  given  very  great  assistance  and,  in  addition,  several 
ornithologists  in  India,  Mr  Salim  Ali,  Mr  C.  M.  Inglis,  Mr  W.  H. 
Mathews,  and  the  Rev.  F.  S.  Briggs,  sent  to  Mrs  Whistler  their  notes 
and  suggestions  which,  as  far  as  possible,  have  been  incorporated. 

In  the  original  edition  250  birds  were  described,  and  in  each 
succeeding  issue  the  number  was  increased.  In  the  present  edition 
7  more  species  have  been  added,  and  12  referred  to  in  the  text. 
There  is  also  one  new  coloured  plate  and  five  text  figures  all  of  which 
are  the  work  of  Mr  Roland  Green. 

When  the  author  of  this  work  was  preparing  a  new  edition  he  was 
taken  ill,  and  died  on  7th  July  1943.  By  his  death,  ornithology,  and 
Indian  ornithology  in  particular,  has  suffered  a  grievous  loss.  Hugh 
Whistler  was  in  his  prime  and  had  become  the  recognised  authority 
on  everything  connected  with  birds  in  India.  During  his  seventeen 
years'  service  in  the  Indian  Police  he  had  made  himself  thoroughly 
acquainted  with  Indian  birds,  about  which  he  has  written  so  delight- 
fully in  this  book.  He  had  a  happy  knack  of  putting  into  words  the 
salient  characters  of  a  species  which  enables  them  to  be  readily 
recognised  in  the  field.  Their  habits  too,  he  described  in  vivid 
word  pictures,  so  helpful  to  the  beginner. 

Hugh  Whistler  was  a  scientific  ornithologist  and  his  name  will 
be  handed  down  as  one  of  the  most  careful  and- teriscigntious  workers. 
He  had  amassed  copious  notes  on  every  aspect  of  Indian  bird-life 
which  were  always  at  the  disposal  of  other  ornithologists.  But  the 
real  purpose  of  these  notes  was  to  form  a  basis  for  a  Handbook  of 
the  Birds  of  the  Indian  Empire,  which  he  and  his  great  friend  and 
brother-ornithologist,  the  late  Dr  C.  B.  Ticehurst,  had  planned 
and,  indeed,  commenced  to  write.  After  the  lamented  death  of 
Dr  Ticehurst,  Whistler  had  intended  to  carry  on  alone,  but  increasing 
war-work  hindered  this.  He  never  let  his  great  love  of  ornithology 
interfere  with  his  official  work,  and  in  India  those  in  authority  did 
not  discourage  his  hobby  since  the  search  for  birds  took  him  into 
out-of-the-way  places  seldom  visited  in  the  ordinary  routine  of  duty, 
v  az 


vi  PREFACE 

At  his  home  near  Battle,  Whistler  had  brought  together  a  wonderful 
collection  of  bird  skins,  for  the  most  part  beautifully  prepared  by  his 
own  hands,  and  nothing  pleased  him  more  than  to  show  his  collection. 
He  was  ready  to  help  others,  and  his  many  correspondents  in  India 
will  miss  him,  since  he  was  the  authority  to  whom  they  turned  for 
advice  and  guidance.  Much  of  the  recent  work  done  there  was 
initiated  by  him,  and  many  casual  observers  became  good  ornithologists 
through  his  enthusiasm.  Whatever  work  he  undertook  he  did  with 
the  same  thoroughness  and  enthusiasm  with  which  he  studied  birds, 
and  the  high  standard  aimed  at  made  him  loved  and  rfespected  by  all 
who  knew  him. 

N.  B.  KINNEAR 


CONTENTS 

Order  PASSERES 
Family  CORVIOSE 

PAGE 

Corvus  corax  Linnaeus.     Raven i 

macrorhynchos  Wagler.     Jungle  Crow  . '        .          .          .         .         .         3 

splendens  Vieillot.     Common  House  Crow    .....         5 

monedula  Linnaeus.     Jackdaw      .......         8 

Urocissa  flavirostris  (Blyth).     Yellow-billed  Blue-Magpie       .         .          .10 
Dendrocitt a  vagabunda  (Latham).     Indian  Tree-Pie  v-*".          .          .          .12 

Garrulus  lanceolatus  Vigors.     Black-throated  Jay  vx"     .          .          .  1 5 

Pyrrhocorax  pyrrhocorax  (Linnaeus).     Chough     .          .          .         .  17 


Family  PARIM: 

Parus  major  Linnaeus.     Indian  Grey  Tit     .          .          .          .          .          .18 

monticolus  Vigors.     Green-backed  Tit  .          .          .         .          .21 

Machlolophus  xanthogenys  (Vigors).     Yellow-cheeked  Tit       ...        22 
Lophophanes  melanophus  (Vigors).     Crested  Black  Tit  ....       24 

sEgithaliscus  concinnus  (Gould).     Red-headed  Tit          ....       26 


Family  SITTID^E 

Sitta  castanea  Lesson.     Chestnut-bellied  Nuthatch       ....       28 
frontalis  (Swainson).     Velvet-fronted  Nuthatch     ....       30 


Family  TIMALIIDJE 

Garrulax  albogularis  (Gould).     White-throated  Laughing-Thrush  .          .       32 

Trochalopteron  erythrocephalum  (Vigors).     Red-headed  Laughing-Thrush       34 

variegatum  (Vigors).     Variegated  Laughing-Thrush        .          .          -35 

cachinnans  (Jerdon).     Nilgiri  Laughing-Thrush     .  37 

lineatum  (Vigors).     Streaked  Laughing-Thrush     .          .          .          -38 

Turdoides  somervillei  (Sykes).     Jungle  Babbler     .  ...       40 

striatus  (Dumont).     White-headed  Babbler  .....       42 

Argya  caudata  (Dume"ril).     Common  Babbler      .....       43 

malcolmi  (Sykes).     Large  Grey  Babbler         .....       45 

Pomatorhinus  horsfieldii  Sykes.     Deccan  Scimitar-Babbler     ...       47 

erythrogenys  Vigors.     Rusty-cheeked  Scimitar-Babbler  ...       48 

Dumetia  hyperythra  (Franklin).     Rufous-bellied  Babbler       .         .          .50 

Chrysdmma  sinensis  (Gmelin).     Yellow-eyed  Babbler    .          .          .  5 1 

Pellorneum  ruficeps  Swainson.     Spotted  Babbler  .          .          .          .          -53 

Alcippe  poioicephala  (Jerdon).     Quaker-Babbler 54 

Rhopocichla  atriceps  (Jerdon).     Black-headed  Babbler  .          .          .  56 

Leioptila  capistrata  (Vigors).     Black-headed  Sibia         ....       58 
vii 


viii  CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Siva  strigula  Hodgson.     Stripe-throated  Siva       .          .          .          .          -59 

Leiothrix  lutea  (Scopoli).     Red-billed  Leiothrix 61 

JEgithina  tiphia  (Linnaeus).  Common  lora  .  .  .  .  .62 
Chloropsis  jerdoni  (Blyth).  Jerdon's  Chloropsis  .....  64 

Family  PYCNONOTID^E 

Microscelis  psaroides  (Vigors).     Black  Bulbul 66 

Molpdstes  cafer  (Linnaeus).     Red-vented  Bulbul '68 

leucogenys  (Gray).  White-cheeked  Bulbul  .  .  .  *  .  .71 
Otocompsa  jocosa  (Linnaeus).  Red-whiskered  Bulbul  ....  73 
lole  icterica  (Strickland).  Yellow-browed  Bulbul  75 

Pycnonotus  luteolus  (Lesson).     White-browed  Bulbul    ....       76 

Family  CERTHIIDJE 

Certhia  himalayana  Vigors.     Himalayan  Tree-Creeper  ...       77 

Tichodroma  muraria  (Linnaeus).     Wall-Creeper   .....       79 

Family  CINCLID>E 
Ctnclus  pallasii  Temminck.     Brown  Dipper          .....        82 

Family  TURDID^E 

Luscinia  brunnea  (Hodgson).  Indian  Blue-Chat  .  .  .  .  .83 
Saxicola  caprata  (Linnaeus).  Pied  Bush-Chat  .  .  .  .  -85 

torquata  (Linnaeus).     Stonechat  .......       87 

Rhodophila  ferrea  (Gray).     Dark-grey  Bush-Chat          ....       89 

(Enanthe  picata  (Blyth).  Pied  Wheatear 90 

deserti  (Temminck).  Desert  Wheatear 92 

Cercomela  fusca  (Blyth).     Brown  Rock-Chat        .....       94 

Enicurus  maculatus  Vigors.     Spotted  Forktail       .....       95 

Phcenicurus  ochrurus  (Gmelin).     Black  Redstart   .....       97 

Chaimarrhornis  leucocephala  (Vigors).     White-capped  Redstart        .       .    .       98 
Rhyacornis  fuliginosa  (Vigors).     Plumbeous  Redstart    .          .          .          .100 

Cyanosylvia  svecica  (Linnaeus).     Bluethroat          .          .          .          .          .      101 

lanthia  cyanura  (Pallas).     Red-flanked  Bush-Robin       .          .          .          .103 

Saxicoloides  fulicat a  (Linnaeus).     Indian  Robin    .          .          .          .          .104 

Copsychus  saularis  (Linnaeus).     Magpie-Robin     .          .          .         .          .106 

Kittacincla  malabarica  (Scopoli).     Shama    .          .          .          .          .          .108 

Turdus  simillimus  Jerdon.  Nilgiri  Blackbird  .  .  .  .  .no 

boulboul  (Latham).     Grey- winged  Blackbird  .          .          .          .in 

unicolor  Tickell.  Tickell's  Thrush 113 

Geokichla  citrina  (Latham).  Orange-headed  Ground-Thrush  .  .114 
Monticola  cinclorhyncha  (Vigors).  Blue-headed  Rock-Thrush  .  .116 

solitaria  (Linnaeus).  Blue  Rock -Thrush  .  .  .  .  .117 
Myophonus  cteruleus  (Scopoli).  Whistling  Thrush  .  .  .  .119 

Family  MUSCICAPID/E 

Siphia  parva  (Bechstein).     Red-breasted  Flycatcher     .  .  .  .121 

Muscicapula  tickelliee  (Blyth).  Tickell's  Blue  Flycatcher  .  .  .122 

Eumyias  tkalassina  (Swainson).    Verditer  Flycatcher     .  .  .  .124 

albicaudata  (Jerdon).     Nilgiri  Blue  Flycatcher       .  .  .  .125 


CONTENTS  ix 

PAGE 

Ochromela  nigrorufa  (Jerdon).     Black  and  Orange  Flycatcher  .  .127 

Culicicapa  ceylonensis  (Swainson).     Grey-headed  Flycatcher  .  .     128 

Niltava  sundara  Hodgson.     Rufous-bellied  Niltava        .          .  .  .130 

Tchitrea  paradisi  (Linnaeus).     Paradise  Flycatcher         .          .  .  .131 

Hypothymis  azurea  (Boddaert).    Black-naped  Flycatcher        .  .  .133 

Leucocirca  aureola  (Lesson).     White-browed  Fantail-Flycatcher  .  .135 

Family  LANIID^S 

Lanius  excubitor  Linnaeus.     Great  Grey  Shrike    .          .          .  .  137 

vittatus  Valenciennes.     Bay-backed  Shrike    .          .          .  .  .139 

cristatus  Linnaeus.     Brown  Shrike        .          .          .          .  .  .140 

schach  Linnaeus.     Rufous-backed  Shrike       .         .          .  .  .141 

Hemipus  picatus  (Sykes).     Pied-Shrike 144 

Tephrodornis  pondicerianus  (Gmelin).     Common  Wood-Shrike  .  .145 


Family  CAMPEPHAGIM: 

Pericrocotus  speciosus  (Latham).  Scarlet  Minivet  .  .  .  147 

brevirostris  (Vigors).  Short-billed  Minivet 148 

peregrinus  (Linnaeus).  Little  Minivet  ....  1 49 

Lalage  sykesi  Strickland.     Black-headed  Cuckoo-Shrike         .          .          .151 

Family  ARTAMID/E 
Artamus  fuscus  Vieillot.     Ashy  Swallow-Shrike    .          .          .          .          .153 

Family  DICRURIDJE 

Dicrurus  macrocercus  Vieillot.     King-Crow  .          .          .          .          •      155 

longicaudatus  Jerdon.     Indian  Grey  Drongo  .          .          .          .158 

Dissemurus  paradiseus  (Linnaeus).     Large  Racket-tailed  Drongo      .          .159 

Family  SYLVIIOSS 

Acrocephalus  stentoreus  (Hempr.  and  Ehrn.).    Indian  Great  Reed-Warbler     161 

dumetorum  Blyth.     Blyth's  Reed-Warbler 163 

Hippolais  caligata  (Lichtenstein).  Booted  Warbler  .  .  .  .164 
Orthotomus  sutorius  (Pennant).  Tailor-bird  .  .  .  .  .166 
Cisticola  juncidis  (Rafinesque).  Fantail- Warbler  .  .  .  .168 

Fran  klinia  buchanani  (Blyth).     Rufous -fronted  Wren- Warbler        .          .170 
gracilis  (Franklin).     Franklin's  Wren- Warbler        .          .          .  172 

Sylvia  curruca  (Linnaeus).     Lesser  Whitethroat  .          .          .          .  173 

Phylloscopus  collybita  (Vieillot).     Chiffchaff 175 

inornatus  (Blyth).     Yellow-browed  Warbler  .         .         .         .176 

trochiloides  Sundevall.     Greenish  Willow- Wren     .         .         .          .     177 

occipitalis  (Blyth).     Large  Crowned  Willow- Wren          .         .          .178 

Seicercus  xanthoschtstos  (Gray).     Grey-headed  Flycatcher- Warbler  .      179 

Suya  crinigera  Hodgson.     Brown  Hill-Warbler    .         .          .         .          .181 

Prinia  gracilis  (Lichtenstein).     Streaked  Wren- Warbler         .         .          .182 

socialis  Sykes.    Ashy  Wren- Warbler 183 

sylvatica  Jerdon.     Jungle  Wren-Warbler 185 

inornata  Sykes.     Indian  Wren-Warbler 187 


x  CONTENTS 

Family  IRENIDJE 

PAGE 

Irena  puella  (Latham).     Fairy  Blue-bird     .         .         .         ,         .         .189 

Family  ORIOLID/E 

Oriolus  oriolus  (Linnaeus).     Golden  Oriole  .          .          .          .          .          .191 

xanthornus  (Linnaeus).     Black-headed  Oriole         .         .         .         .192 

Family  GRACULIDJE 
Gracula  religiosa  Linnaeus.     Indian  Crackle         .          .          .          .  194 


Family  STURNID^E 

Pastor  roseus  (Linnaeus).     Rosy  Pastor         .          .          .          .          .          .196 

Sturnus  vulgaris  Linnaeus.     Starling  .          .          .          .          .         .          .198 

Sturnia  malabarica  (Gmelin).     Grey-headed  Mynah     ....     200 

Temenuchus  pagodarum  (Gmelin).     Brahminy  Mynah   .          .  .201 

Acridotfarfs  trift**  (Linnaeus).    Common  Mynah  ....     203 

ginginianus  (Latham).     Bank  Mynah    ......     205 

dBthiopsar  fuscus  (Wagler).    Jungle  Mynah          .....     206 

Sturnopastor  contra  (Linnaeus).     Pied  Mynah       .....     207 


Family  PLOCEIDJE         / 

Ploceus  philippinus  (Linnaeus).  Baya  Weaver-bird  ....  209 
manyar  (Horsfield).  Striated  Weaver-bird  .  *  .  .211 

Uroloncha  malabarica  (Linnaeus).  White-throated  Munia^ .  .  .213 
punctulata  (Linnaeus).  Spotted  Munia  .  .  .  .  .215 

Amandava  amandava  (Linnaeus).     Red  Avadavat          .          .          .          .216 

Family  FRINGILLIM: 

Perissospiza  icteroides  (Vigors).     Black  and  Yellow  Grosbeak          .          .218 
Pyrrhula  erythrocephala  Vigors.     Red-headed  Bullfinch          .          .          .219 
Carpodacus  erythrinus  (Pallas).     Common  Rosefinch     ....     220 

Hypacanthis  spinoides  (Vigors).     Himalayan  Greenfinch          .          .          .     222 
Gymnorhis  xanthocollis  (Burton).     Yellow-throated  Sparrow  .          .          .     224 
Passer  domesticus  (Linnaeus).     House-Sparrow     .....     226 

rutilans  (Temminck).     Cinnamon  Sparrow  .         .         .         .         .228 

Emberiza  stewarti  Blyth.    White-capped  Bunting          ....     229 

da  Linnaeus.     Meadow-Bunting          ......     230 

melanocephala  Scopoli.     Black-headed  Bunting      .          .         .          .232 

Melophus  lathami  (Gray).     Crested  Bunting  *      .          .          .          .          .233 

Family  HIRUNDINID^ 

Riparia  paludicola  (Vieillot).  Indian  Sand-Martin  .  .  .  .235 
concolor  (Sykes).  Dusky  Crag-Martin 236 

Hirundo  smithii  Leach.  Wire-tailed  Swallow  .  .  .  .  .237 

fluvicola  Jerdon.  Cliff-Swallow 239 

daurica  Linnaeus.  Red-rumped  Swallow  .  .  .  .  .241 


CONTENTS  xi 

Family  MOTACILLID^E 

PAGE 

Motacilla  alba  Linnaeus.     White  Wagtail    ......     243 

maderaspatensis  Gmelin.  Large  Pied  Wagtail  ....  245 

cinerea  Tunstall.  Grey  Wagtail 246 

flava  Linnaeus.  Yellow  Wagtail  ......  248 

Anthus  hodgsoni  Richmond.  Indian  Tree-Pipit  .  .  .  .  .250 
rufulus  Vieillot.  Indian  Pipit 252 

Family  ALAUDID^S 

Alauda  gulgula  Franklin.     Little  Skylark    .          .         .  .  .  .     253 

Calandrella  brachydactyla  (Leisler).     Short-toed  Lark  .  .  .  .255 

Mirafra  assamica  McClelland.     Bengal  Bush-Lark        .  .  .  .256 

erythroptera  Blyth.     Red- winged  Bush-Lark          .  .  .  .258 

Galerida  cristata  (Linnaeus).     Crested  Lark          .          .  .  .  .259 

Ammomanes  phcenicura  (Franklin).     Rufous-tailed  Lark  .  .  .261 

Eremopteryx  grisea  (Scopoli).     Ashy-crowned  Finch-Lark  .  .  .     262 

Family  ZOSTEROPIDJE 
Zosterops  palpebrosa  (Temminck).     White-Eye     ..... 


Family  NECTARINIID^E 

JEthopyga  siparaja  (Raffles).     Yellow-backed  Sunbird  ....  265 

Cinnyris  asiaticus  (Latham).     Purple  Sunbird      .....  268 

zeylonicus  (Linnaeus).     Purple-rumped  Sunbird     ....  270 


"Family 

Diceeum  erythrorhynchos  (Latham).     Tickell's  Flower-Pecker          .          .  272 

Piprisoma  agile  (Swainson).     Thick-billed  Flower-Pecker      .          .          .  274 

Family  PITTIDJE 
Pitta  brachyura  (Linnaeus).     Indian  Pitta    .          .          .          .          .          .275 

Order  PICI 
Family  PICIDJE 

Picus  squamatus  Gould.     Scaly-bellied  Green  Woodpecker    .          .          .  277 

Dry  abates  auriceps  (Vigors).     Brown-fronted  Pied  Woodpecker       .          .  279 

mahrattensis  (Latham).     Mahratta  Woodpecker      ....  280 

Micropternus  brachyurus  (Vieillot).     Rufous  Woodpecker       .          .          .  282 

Brachypternus  benghalensis  (Linnaeus).     Golden-backed  Woodpecker       .  285 

Family  CAPITONID/E 

Megalcema  virens  (Boddaert).     Great  Himalayan  Barbet                            .  287 

Thereiceryx  zeylanicus  (Gmelin).     Green  Barbet  .....  289 

Cyanops  asiatica  (Latham)..    Blue-throated  Barbet        ....  290 

Xantholcema  hamacephala  (P.  L.  S.  Miiller).     Coppersmith  .          .          ,  292 


xii  CONTENTS 

Order  ANISODACTYLI 

Family  CORACIAD^ 

/  PAGE 

Coracias  benghalensis  (Linnaeus).     Blue-Jay  \/  .....     293 

Family  MEROPIDJE 

Merops  orientalis  Latham.  Green  Bee-Eater  .....  295 
superciliosus  Linnaeus.  Blue-tailed  Bee-Eater  ....  297 
leschenaultii  (Vieillot).  Chestnut-headed  Bee-eater  .  .  .  298 

Family  ALCEDINID^E      v' 

Ceryle  rudis  (Linnaeus).     Pied  Kingfisher    ......     299 

(Linnaeus).     Common  Kingfisher    .....      301 


'Halcyon  smyrnensis  (Linnaeus).     White-breasted  Kingfisher  .          .  303 

Family  BUCEROTID^E 

Dichoceros  bicornis  (Linnaeus).     Great  Hornbill    .....     304 
Tockus  birostris  (Scopoli).     Grey  Hornbill  ......     306 

Family  UPUPIM: 
Upupa  epops  Linnaeus.     Hoopoe         .......     308 

Order  MACROCHIRES 
Family  MICROPODIDJE 

Micropus  affinis  (Gray).     Indian  Swift         .          .          .          .          ..311 

Cypsiurus  batassiensis  (Gray).     Palm-Swift  .          .          .          .          .313 

Hemiprocne  coronata  (Tickell).     Indian  Crested  Swift  .          .          .          .314 

Family  CAPRIMULGIDJE 
Caprimulgus  asiaticus  Latham.     Indian  Nightjar  .          .          .          .          .316 


Order  COCCYGES 
%  Family  CUCULIM: 

canoriis  Linnaeus. -Cuckoo 318 

Hierococcyx  varius  (Vahl).     Common  Hawk-Cuckoo     .          .  .  .321 

Cacomantis  merulinus  (Vahl).     Indian  Plaintive  Cuckoo          .  .  .322 

Clamator  jacobinus  (Boddaert).     Pied  CrestecT  Cuckoo  .          .  .  .324 

Eudynamis  scolopaceus  (Linnaeus).     Koel  ^<         .          .          .  .  .325 

Rhopodytes  viridirostris  (Jerdon).     Small  Green-billed  Malkoha  .  .328 

Taccocua  leschenaultii  Lesson.     Sirkeer               /.          .          .  .  .329 

Centropus  sinensis  (Stephen).     Crow-Pheasants'  .          .          .  .  331 

Ouler  PSITTACI     S 
Family  PSITTACID^E  / 

Psittacula  eupatria  (Linnaeus).  Large  Indian  Parrakeet  J  .  .332 

krameri  (Scopoli).  Green  Parrakeet  .  .  .  \/  .  -334 

cyanocephala  (Linnaeus).  Blossom-headed  Parrakeet  .  .  -336 

Coryllis  vernalis  Sparrman.     Indian  Lorikeet        .         .         ,  .  •     337 


CONTENTS  xiii 

Order  STRIGES  ±S 
Family  STRIGID^E 

PAGE 

Strix  ocellatum  (Lesson)  Mottled  Wood-Owl  .  .  .  .  -339 
Ketupa  zeylonensis  (Gmelin).  Brown  Fish-Owl  .....  340 
Bubo  bengalensis  (Franklin).  Rock  Eagle-Owl  .  .  .  .  .342 
coromandus  (Latham).  Dusky  Eagle-Owl  .....  344 
Otus  bakkamcena  Pennant.  Collared  Scops-Owl  ....  345 

Athene  brama  (Temminck).     Spotted  Owlet         .....     347 
Glaucidium  radiatum  (Tickell).    Jungle  Owlet      .....     348 

Order  ACCIPITRES 
Family  GYPIDJE 

Sarcogyps  calvus  (Scopoli).     King  Vulture  .          .  .  .  .350 

Gyps  himalayensis  Hume.     Himalayan  Griffon     .          .  .  .  -352 

Pseudogyps  bengalensis  (Grnelin).     White-backed  Vulture  .  .  -353 

Neophron  percnopterus  (Linnaeus).     Neophron      .          .  .  .  356 

Family  FALCONID^E  v/ 

Gypaetus  barbatus  (Linnaeus).     Lammergeier       .          .          .          .          -358 

Aquila  rapax  (Temminck).     Tawny  Eagle  .          .          .          .          .          .360 

Spizaetus  cirrhatus  (Gmelin).     Crested  Hawk-Eagle      .          .          .          .361 

Hamatornis  cheela  (Latham).     Crested  Serpent-Eagle  .          .          .          .364 

Butastur  teesa  (Franklin).    White-eyed  Buzzard 366 

Haliaetus  leucoryphus  (Pallas).     Pallas'  Fishing-Eagle    ....     367 

Haliastur  indus  (Boddaert).     Brahminy  Kite         .....     370 

Milvus  migrans  (Boddaert).     Common  Pariah  Kite        .          .          .  371 

Circus  eeruginosus  (Linnaeus).     Marsh  Harrier      .....     374 

macrourus  (S.  G.  Gmelin).     Pale  Harrier      .....      375 

Buteo  rufinus  (Cretzschmar).     Long-legged  Buzzard     ....     378 

Astur  badius  (Gmelin).     Shikra          .          .          .          .         .          .          .380 

Falco  jugger  ].  E.  Gray.     Lugger  Falcon     ......     382 

chicquera  Daudin.     Turumtee     .          .          .          .          .          .          .384 

tinnunculus  Linnaeus.     Kestrel    .          .          .         .         .          .         .385 

Order  COLUMB^E 
Family  COLUMBIOE; 

Crocopus  phoenicopterus  (Latham).     Common  Green  Pigeon  .          .          .388 
Sphenocercus  sphenurus  (Vigors).     Kokla  Green  Pigeon          .          .          .389 
Muscadivora  cenea  (Linnaeus).     Green  Imperial  Pigeon          .          .          .     391 
Columba  livia  Gmelin.     Blue  Rock-Pigeon  .....     392 

Streptopelia  orientalis  (Latham).     Rufous  Turtle-Dove          .          .          .     394 
chinensis  (Scopoli).     Spotted  Dove       .          .          .          .          .          .396 

senegalensis  (Linnaeus).     Little  Brown  Dove  ....     397 

risoria  (Linnaeus).     Indian  Ring-Dove          .....     399 

(Enopopelia  tranquebarica  (Herman).     Red  Turtle-Dove        .          .          .     401 
Macropygia  unchalla  (Wagler).     Bar-tailed  Cuckoo  Dove       .          .          .     402 

Order  PTEROCLETES 
Family  PTEROCLIM: 

Pterorles  orientalis  (Linnaeus).     Imperial  Sandgrouse    ....     403 
exustus  Temminck.     Common  Sandgrouse   .....     405 


xiv  CONTENTS 

Order  GALLING 
Family  PHASIANID/E 

PAGE 

Pavo  cristatus  Linnaeus.  Common  Peafowl  .....  407 
Callus  sonnerati  Temminck.  Grey  Jungle-Fowl  .  .  .  .410 

gallus  (Linnaeus).     Red  Jungle-Fowl    ....    /  .          .412 

Gennceus  leucomelanus  (Latham).     Common  Kalij  Pheasant  \/     .          .415 
Lophophorus  impejanus  (Latham).     Monal  .         .          .          .         .          .418 

Galloper dix  spadicea  (Gmelin).  Red  Spur-Fowl  /  .  420 

Coturnix  cotumix  (Linnaeus).  Common  Quail  ^y  422 

coromandelicus  (Gmelin).     Rain-Quail        ^<    /  ....     424 

Perdicula  asiatica  (Latham).     Jungle  Bush-Quail  .          ...     426 

Alectoris  grceca  (Meisner).     Chukor  .......     428 

Francolinus  francolinus  (Linnaeus).  Black  Partridge  ....  430 

pondicerianus  (Gmelin).     Grey  Partridge       .          .          .          .          .433 


Order  HEMIPODII 

Family  TURNICIM: 

Turnix  sylvatica  (Desfontaines).     Little  Button-Quail  ....     434 

Order   GRALL^E 
Family  RALLIDJE 

Amaurornis  phoenicura  (Pennant).     White-breasted  Waterhen  .          .  437 

Gallinula  chloropus  (Linnaeus).     Waterhen  ....  438 

Porphyrio  poliocephalus  (Latham).     Purple  Coot  .          .  .  440 

Fulica  atra  Linnaeus.     Common  Coot         ....  .  441 

Family  GRUID;E 

Grus  grus  (Linnaeus).     Common  Crane       ....  .     443 

Antigone  antigone  (Linnaeus).     Sarus  Crane          .  .  .     445 

Family  OTIDID& 
Sypheotides  indica  (Miller).     Likh  Floriken          ...  .     447 

Order  LIMICOL^ 

Family  BURHINID^ 

Burhinus  oedicnemus  (Linnaeus).     Stone-Curlew    .....     450 

Family  GLAREOLTD^E 

Cursorius  coromandelicus  (Gmelin).     Indian  Courser     ....     452 
Glareola  lactea  Temminck.     Little  Indian  Pratincole    ....     454 

/ 

Family  JACANIDJE 

Metopidius  indicus  (Latham).     Bronze-winged  Jacana   ....     456 
Hydrophasianus  chirurgus  (Scopoli).     Pheasant-tailed  Jacana  .         .     457 


CONTENTS  xv 

Family  CHARADRIIDJE 

PAGE 

Lobivanellus  indicus  (Boddaert).     Red-wattled  Lapwing         .          .          .459 
Lobipluvia  malabarica  (Boddaert).     Yellow-wattled  Lapwing  .          .461 

Charadrius  dubius  Scopoli.     Little  Ring-Plover    .....     462 

Himantopus  himantopus  (Linnaeus).     Black-winged  Stilt         .          .  464 

Tringa  hypoleucus  Linnaeus.     Common  Sandpiper         ....     466 

ochropus  Linnaeus.     Green  Sandpiper  .....     468 

nebularia  (Gunner).     Greenshank         ......     469 

Erolia  minuta  (Leisler).     Little  Stint  .          .          .          .         .  471 

Scolopax  rusticola  Linnaeus.     Woodcock      .  ...  472 

Capella  gallinago  (Linnaeus).     Common  Snipe     .....     475 

stenura  (Bonaparte).     Pintail  Snipe      ......     477 

Family  ROSTRATULID/E 
Rostratula  benghalensis  (Linnaeus).     Painted  Snipe        .          .  .     478 


Order   GAVI^E 
Family  LARID/E 

LOTUS  ridibundus  Linnaeus.     Black-headed  Gull    .          .          .          .          .481 

Chlidonias  hybrida  (Pallas).     Whiskered  Tern 482 

Sterna  aurantia  Gray.     Common  River  Tern       .  .  .     484 

melanogaster  Temminck.     Black-bellied  Tern         ....     486 

Rhynchops  albicollis  Swainson.     Indian  Skimmer  ....     487 

Order  STEGANOPODES 

Family  PELECANIDJE 
Pelecanus  roseus  Gmelin.     Spotted-billed  Pelican  .  .          .     489 

Family  PHALACROCORACID^ 

Phalacrocorax  niger  (Vieillot).     Little  Cormorant  .          .          .          .491 

Anhinga  melanogaster  Pennant.     Indian  Darter    ...  .     493 

Order  HERODIONES 
Family  IBIDID/E 

Threskiornis  melanocephalus  (Latham).     White  Ibis       ....     495 
Pseudibis  papillosus  (Temminck).     Black  Ibis        .....     497 

Family  PLATALEID/E 
Platalea  leucorodia  Linnaeus.     Spoonbill     ......     498 

Family  CICONIIM: 

Dissoura  episcopus  (Boddaert).     White-necked  Stork     ....     500 
Xenorhynchus  asiaticus  (Latham).     Black-necked  Stork  .          .          .502 

Ibis  leucocephalus  (Pennant).     Painted  Stork         ...  -503 

Anastomus  oscitans  (Boddaert).     Open-bill  ...  505 


xvi  CONTENTS 

Family  ARDBID/E/ 

/  PAGE 

Ardea  cinerea  Linnaeus.     Common  Heron  \/     .  .  .  .  507 

Egretta  garzetta  (Linnaeus).     Little  Egret  .         .  .  .  .  509 

Bubulcus  ibis  (Linnaeus).     Cattle  Egret        .         .  .  .  .  .511 

Ardeola  grayi  (Sykes).     Paddy-bird 512 

Nycticorax  nycticorax  (Linnaeus).     Night  Heron  .  .  .  .  .514 

Ixobrychus  cinnamomeus  (Gmelin).     Chestnut  Bittern  .  .  .  .515 

Order  ANSERES 
Family  ANATIDJE 

Sarkidiornis  melanotos  (Pennant).  Nukta  ^/  .  .  .  .  .51? 

Nettapus  coromandelianus  (Gmelin).  Cotton-Teal  .  .  .  .519 

Anser  indicus  (Latham).  Bar-headed  Goose  .  .  .  .  .520 

Dendrocygna  javanica  (Horsfield).  Whistling  Teal  .  .  .  .522 

Casarca  ferruginea  (Pallas).  Ruddy  Sheldrake 524 

Anas  platyrhyncha  Linnaeus.  Mallard  .  .  .  .  .  .526 

pcecilorhyncha  Forster.     Spotbill           .          .  .  .  .  .52? 

Chaulelasmus  streperus  (Linnaeus).     Gadwall         .  .  .  .  .529 

Nettion  crecca  (Linnaeus).     Common  Teal  .          .  .  .  .  .530 

Dafila  acuta  (Linnaeus).     Pintail         .          .          .  .  .  .  -532 

Spatula  clypeata  (Linnaeus).     Shoveller       .          .  .  .  .  -534 

Nyrocaferina  (Linnaeus).  Pochard  .  .  .  .  .  .  .536 

nyroca  (Giildenstadt).     White-eye 538 

Order  PYGOPODES 

Family  PODICIPIDJE 

Podiceps  ruficollis  (Pallas).     Little  Grebe     ......     539 

INDEX '  .     542 


LIST  OF  PLATES 


PAGE 


PLATE  I  (Frontispiece  in  colours)       .....  Frontispiece 

Fig.  i.     Black  and  Orange  Flycatcher  (Ochromela  nigrorufa) 
„     2.     Fairy  Blue-Bird  (Irena  puella) 
„     3.     Yellow-browed  Bulbul  (lole  icterica) 
„    4.     Velvet-fronted  Nuthatch  (Sitta  frontalis) 


PLATE  II  

Fig.  i.  Spotted  Munia  (Uroloncha punctulata) 

„    2.  Red  Avadavat  (Amandava  amandava) 

„    3.  Red-breasted  Flycatcher  (Siphia  parva) 

,,    4.  Red-headed  Tit  (ffigithaliscus  concinnus) 

„     5.  Indian  Grey  Tit  (Parus  major) 

,,     6.  Himalayan  Tree-Creeper  (Certhia  himalayana) 


PLATE  III 44 

Fig.  i.  Variegated  Laughing-Thrush  (Trochalopteron  variegatum) 

,,     2.  Yellow-eyed  Babbler  (Chrysomma  sinensis) 

„     3.  Purple  Sunbird  (Cinnyris  asiaticus) 

„    4.  Common  Babbler  (Argya  caudatd) 

,,     5.  Streaked  Laughing-Thrush  (Trochalopteron  lineatum) 


PLATE  IV  (in  colours)     ........          .66 

Fig.  i.     Grey-headed  Flycatcher- Warbler  (Seicercus  xanthoschistos} 
„    2.     Nilgiri  Blue  Flycatcher  (Eumyias  albicaudata) 
„    3.     Orange-headed  Ground-Thrush  (Geokichla  citrina) 
„    4.     Nilgiri  Laughing-Thrush  (Trochalopterom  cachinnans) 
„     5.     Red-billed  Leiothrix  (Leiothrix  luted) 


PLATE  V 88 

Fig.  i.  White-throated  Laughing-Thrush  (Garrulax  albogularis) 

„    2.  Deccan  Scimitar-Babbler  (Pomatorhinus  horsfieldii) 

»    3-  Jerdon's  Chloropsis  (Chloropsis  jerdoni) 

„    4.  Black-headed  Sibia  (Lioptila  capistrata) 

xvii  0 


xviii  LIST   OF   PLATES 

PAGE 

PLATE  VI  (in  colours) no 

Fig.  i.  Verditer  Flycatcher  (Eumyias  thalassina) 

„    2.  Grey-headed  Flycatcher  (Culicicapa  ceylonensis) 

,,    3.  Ashy  Wren- Warbler  (Prinia  socialis) 

„    4.  Tickell's  Blue  Flycatcher  (Muscicapula  tickellia) 

,,     5.  Little  Minivet  (Pericrocotus  peregrinus) 

PLATE  VII 132 

-  Fig.  i.  Grey- winged  Blackbird  (Turdus  boulboul) 

„    2.  Whistling  Thrush  (Myophonus  cceruleno) 

PLATE  VIII 154 

Fig.  i.  Black  Redstart  (Phcenicurus  ochrurus) 

„    2.  Plumbeous  Redstart  (Rhyacornis  fuliginosa) 

,,     3.  Starling  (Sturnus  vulgaris) 

„    4.  White-capped  Redstart  (Chaimarrhornis  leucocephala) 

„     5.  Brahminy  Mynah  (Temenuchus  pagodarum) 

PLATE  IX 176 

Fig.  i.  Bay-backed  Shrike  (Lanius  vittatus) 

„    2.  Paradise  Flycatcher  (Terpsiphone  parodist) 

„    3.  Common  Wood-Shrike  (Tephrodornis  pondicerianus) 

,,    4.  Blue-headed  Rock-Thrush  (Monticola  cinclorhyncha) 

„     5.  Brown  Dipper  (Cinclus  pallasii) 

„    6.  Bluethroat  (Cyanosylvia  svedca) 

PLATE  X  (in  colours) 198 

Fig.  i.  Green  Bee-Eater  (Merops  orientalis) 

,,    2.  Red-vented  Bulbul  (Molpastes  cafer) 

,,    3.  Golden  Oriole  (Oriolus  oriolus) 

,,    4.  Coppersmith  (Xantholcema  hcemacephala) 

,,    5.  Jungle  Babbler  (Turdoides  somervillei) 

PLATE  XI 220 

Fig.  i.  Black-naped  Flycatcher  (Hypothymis  azurea) 

,,     2.  Dark-grey  Bush-Chat  (Rhodophila  f erred) 

„     3.  White-throated  Munia  (Uroloncha  malabaricd) 

,,    4.  Spotted  Babbler  (Pellorneum  ruficeps) 

„     5.  Red-winged  Bush-Lark  (Mirafra  erythroptera) 

PLATE  XII 242 

Fig.  i.  Rufous-fronted  Wren- Warbler  (Franklinia  buchanani) 

,,    2.  Lesser  Whitethroat  (Sylvia  curruca) 

„    3 .  Chiffchaff  (Phylloscopus  collybita) 

,.    4,  Large  (ft-owned  Willow- Wren  (Phylloscopus  occipitalis) 

,,    5.  Indian  Wren-Warbler  (Prinia  inornata) 

„    6.  Brown  Hill-Warbler  (Suya  crinigera) 


LIST    OF   PLATES 


xix 


PLATE  XIII  (in  colours)  ...... 

Fig.  i .  White-Eye  (Zosterops  palpebrosa) 

,,     2.  Baya  Weaver-bird  (Ploceus  philippinus) 

„     3.  •  Short-billed  Minivet  (Pericrocotus  brevirostris) 

„    4.  Purple-rumped  Sunbird  (Cinnyris  zeylonicus) 

„     5.  Common  lora  (JEgithina  tiphia) 

„     6.  Tailor-bird  (Orthotomus  sutorius) 


PAGE 

264 


PLATE  XIV 
Fig.  i. 
„  2. 
»  3- 
»  4- 
>,  5- 
„  6. 


286 


Indian  Pipit  (Anthus  rufulus) 
Stonechat  (Saxicola  torquata) 
Red-whiskered  Bulbul  (Otocompsa  jocosa) 
Desert  Wheatear  (CEnanthe  deserti) 
Little  Skylark  (Alauda  gulgula) 
White  Wagtail  (Motacilla  alba) 


PLATE  XV 


308 


Fig.  i.     Allied  Grosbeak  (Furctus) 
,,    2.     Great  Himalayan  Barbet  (Megalcema  vireus) 


PLATE  XVI 
Fig.  i. 

,,  2. 

„  3- 

„  4- 

»  5- 


330 


Green  Barbet  (Thereiceryx  zeylanicus) 

Blue-tailed  Bee-Eater  (Merops  superciliosus) 

Brown-fronted  Pied  Woodpecker  (Dryobates  aurireps) 

Indian  Pitta  (Pitta  brachyura) 

Common  Hawk- Cuckoo  (Hierococcyx  varius) 


PLATE  XVII  (in  colours)  ....... 

Fig.  i .     Green  Parrakeet  (Psittacula  krameri) 
„     2.     Blue- Jay  (Coracias  benghalensis) 
„     3.     White-breasted  Kingfisher  (Halcyon  smyrnensis) 
„    4.     Golden-backed  Woodpecker  (Brachypternus  benghalensis) 
„     5.     Common  Kingfisher  (Alcedo  at  this)    ~ 


352 


PLATE  XVII 

Fig.  i .     Tawny  Eagle  (Aquila  rapax) 
,,    2.     Brown  Fish-Owl  (Ketupa  zeylonensis) 


374 


PLATE  XIX 

Fig.  i.  Turumtee  (Falco  chicquera) 

,,     2.  White-eyed  Buzzard  (Butastur  teesa) 

„     3.  Lugger  Falcon  (Falco  jugger) 

„    4.  Spotted  Owlet  (Athene  brama) 


•     396 


xx  LIST    OF    PLATES 

PAGE 

PLATE  XX 418 

Fig.  i .  Little  Brown  Dove  (Streptopelia  senegalensis) 

,,     2.  Red  Turtle-Dove  (CEnopopelia  tranquebarica) 

,,     3.  Rain-Quail  (Coturnix  coromandelica) 

„    4.  Indian  Courser  (Cursorius  coromandehcus) 

,,     5.  White-breasted  Waterhen  (Amaurorms  pnaenicnra) 

PLATE  XXI  (in  colours) %  44° 

Fig.  i .     Common  Green  Pigeon  (Crocopus  phcenicopterus) 
„    2.     Blue  Rock-Pigeon  (Columba  livid) 
„     3.     Red-wattled  Lapwing  (Lobivanellus  indicus) 

PLATE  XXII 462 

Fig.  i .     Paddy-bird  (Ardeola  grayi) 
,,    2.     Green  Sandpiper  (Tringa  ochropus) 
„     3.     Little  Ring-Plover  (Charadrius  dubius) 
,,     4.     Black-bellied  Tern  (Sterna  melanogaster) 
„    5.     Grey  Partridge  (Francolinus  pondicerianus) 

PLATE  XXIII 484 

Fig.  i .     Common  Sandgrouse  (Pterocles  exustus) 
,,    2.     Jungle  Bush-Quail  (male  and  female)  (Perdicula  asiatica) 
,,     3.     Cotton-Teal  (male  and  female)  (Nettapus  coromandelianus) 
„    4.     Gadwall  (Chaulelasmus  streperus) 

PLATE  XXIV 506 

Fig.  i.     Pochard  (male  and  female)  (Nyroca  ferina) 
„    2.     Night  Heron  (Nycticorax  nycticorax) 
„     3.     Ruddy  Sheldrake  (Casarca  ferruginea) 


INTRODUCTION 

(TO  THE  FIRST  EDITION) 

BEFORE  proceeding  with  the  actual  purpose  of  this  book,  which  is 
to  provide  a  popular  and  scientific,  but  not  too  technical,  account  of 
the  Common  Birds  of  India,  there  are  a  few  general  observations 
which  I  should  like  to  make  by  way  of  introduction. 

First  to  explain  why  the  book  has  been  written. 

One  of  the  commonest  questions  that  is  put  by  the  new  arrival 
in  India  is  jbr  the  name  of  a  book  to  teach  him  or  her  a  little  about 
the  birds  which  intrude  themselves  on  every  one's  notice.  There 
are  many  excellent  books  on  Indian  ornithology,  but  the  majority 
are  either  too  advanced  and  scientific  for  the  beginner  or  else  too 
expensive.  One  search  for  a  common  bird  in  the  volumes  of  the 
splendid  Fauna  of  India  series  is  enough  to  send  the  inquirer  away 
frightened  by  the  mere  wealth  of  material  and  by  the  technical  terms 
in  the  descriptions.  -The  few  popular  books  that  have  appeared  of 
recent  years  have  suffered  from  the  necessity  of  sacrificing  fullness 
to  cheapness,  and  in  particular  the  majority  lack  illustrations. 

Pictures  are  what  the  beginner  requires  ;  a  few  pictures  are  worth 
pages  of  description.  In  Europe  and  America,  where  Nature-studies 
have  made  such  vast  strides  and  have  now  such  a  general  appeal, 
the  demand  has  made  it  posirble  to  bring  out  numbers  of  cheap 
natural  history  books  with  excellent  coloured  illustrations. 

In  India  this  is  not  yet  possible.  The  area  is  so  great  and  the 
fauna  and  flora  so  rich  and  diverse  that  to  describe  them  requires 
more  space  and  wealth  of  illustration  than  in  the  West,  while  the 
public  to  purchase  such  books  is  much  smaller  and  at  present 
practically  confined  to  the  European  population.  It  is,  however, 
to  be  hoped  that  educated  Indians  may  turn  more  and  more  to  the 
study  of  the  natural  wonders  of  their  land. 

This  book  is  an  earnest  attempt  to  supply  a  well-illustrated  guide 
to  Indian  birds  at  a  price  suited  to  the  moderate  purse.  That  the 
illustrations  are  good  is  guaranteed  by  the  name  of  Mr  Gronvold, 
who  stands  in  the  front  rank  of  living  bird-artists.  That  the  price 
is  moderate  is  due  to  the  generosity  of  three  gentlemen,  Mr  F. 
Mitchell,  Sir  George  Lowndes  and  Mr  W.  S.  Millard,  who  have 
taken  the  publication  outside  the  sphere  of  commercial  profit ; 
whoever  buys  this  work  should  realise  that  their  public  spirit  and 
generosity  have  reduced  the  price  by  a  very  large  amount.  While 


xxii  INTRODUCTION 

Mr  Millard  in  addition  has  kindly  undertaken  the  work  of  arranging 
all  the  details  of  publication,  and  promised  to  see  the  book  through 
the  press. 

The  nomenclature  follows  the  recognised  international  usage. 
This  may  be  briefly  explained. 

Scientific  nomenclature  started  with  the  Swedish  naturalist 
Linnaeus,  who  invented  what  is  known  as  the  Binomial  System. 
In  this  each  living  creature  has  two  Latin  names,  the  first  repre- 
senting the  genus,  the  second  the  species.  To  take  an  example 
from  the  first  family  in  the  book  we  have  the  Raven  (Corvus  corax) 
and  the  Common  House  Crow  (Corvus  splendens). 

Now  a  species  is  a  group  in  which  all  individuals  resemble  each 
other  consistently  except  in  such  details  as  are  due  to  age  or  sex 
or  individual  variation.  Individuals  of  a  species  normally  breed 
together  and  produce  fertile  offspring. 

A  genus  is  a  wider  term.  It  embraces  one  or  more  species 
which,  from  the  possession  of  certain  characteristics,  are  clearly 
worth  separating  from  other  groups  of  species.  The  Raven  and 
the  House  Crow  are  obviously  very  nearly  related  to  each  other 
as  compared  with  the  Blue  Magpies,  though  at  the  same  time  they 
are  not  one  and  the  same  species.  We  therefore  place  both  birds 
together  in  the  genus  Corvus,  and  give  them  their  individual  specific 
names  of  corax  and  splendens.  The  Blue  Magpies  have  each  their 
own  specific  name,  but  their  common  characterise,  ies  group  them 
together  in  another  genus  Urocissa. 

Genera  which  have  certain  features  in  common  are  similarly 
linked  together  into  families ;  Families  are  combined  with  other 
families  to  form  Orders ;  while  the  .various  Orders  together  make 
up  the  great  class  Aves.  It  is  merely  a  system  of  classification  or 
labels,  made  partly  for  convenience  and  partly  to  express  the  differ- 
ences and  affinities  that  appear  amongst  birds.  No  space  has  been 
devoted  in  this  book  to  a  diagnosis  of  the  Families  and  Orders,  but 
their  extent  has  been  indicated  in  the  list  of  species  that  precedes 
the  main  text. 

Increased  study  has  shown  that  the  Binomial  System  alone  is 
not  sufficient  to  express  all  that  is  required.  Abundant  and  widely 
spread  species  vary  more  or  less  consistently  in  different  parts  of  their 
range,  chiefly  in  response  to  climatic  and  geographical  conditions. 
These  geographical  races  or  subspecies  require  to  be  recognised,  and 
this  is  done  by  the  addition  of  a  third  name  after  the  specific  name. 
Thus  our  Raven  in  India,  which  is  clearly  the  same  species  as  the 
European  Raven,  slightly  changed  by  difference  of  habitat,  is  called 
Corvus  corax  lawrencei,  to  recognise  the  fact  and  to  distinguish  it 
from  the  typical  race  Corvus  corax  corax  of  Europe. 

The  selection  of  the  Latin  name  is  fixed  by  the  Law  of  Priority, 


INTRODUCTION  xxiii 

that  the  first  name  published  for  a  species  must  be  used  for  that 
species  irrespective  of  any  names  that  may  have  been  given  to  it 
later.  The  various  provisos  to  this  rule  need  not  trouble  us  here. 
If  a  species  is  divided  into  races  the  first-named  race  is  known  as 
the  typical  one,  and  its  name  gives  the  specific  name ;  so  that  the 
typical  race  may  be  recognised  as  having  its  second  and  third  names 
the  same — Corvus  corax  corax.  The  surname  given  after  the  scientific 
name  is  that  of  the  writer  who  originally  described  the  species.  If 
this  surname  is  placed  within  brackets  it  means  that  he  originally 
described  the  species  with  a  different  generic  name  to  that  now 
used. 

In  the  heading  to  each  species  I  have  given  the  name  binomially, 
the  races,  if  any,  being  indicated  under  the  paragraph  on  Distribution. 
Vernacular  names  have  not  been  given.  In  my  experience  published 
lists  are  of  little  value,  as  few  species  have  really  established 
vernacular  names  and  local  names  vary  from  district  to  district. 
My  aim  throughout  has  been  to  emphasise  the  position  of  our 
Indian  birds  as  part  of  a  wider  scheme,  and  that  their  range  in 
India  is  almost  always  part  of  a  wider  range. 

This  leads  us  naturally  to  J-the  question  of  Geographical 
Distribution.  No  student  of  zoology  can  fail  to  observe  that  the 
fauna  of  the  various  portions  of  the  world  differ  markedly  in 
character  in  different  areas.  There  have  been  many  attempts  to 
define  the  limits  of  these  areas,  though  their  boundaries  must 
necessarily  be  vague.  Six  regions  are  now  commonly  accepted, 
the  Hclarctic,  with  its  Palaearctic  and  Nearctic  subdivisions  (extending 
across  tbs  whole  Northern  Hemisphere  and  including  Europe,  a 
small  portion  of  Africa,  Northern  and  Central  Asia  and  North 
America),  the  Ethiopian  (Africa  and  Arabia),  the  Indian  or  Oriental 
(India,  China,  Ceylon  and  the  Malays),  the  New  Zealand,  the 
Australian  (including  also  the  Pacific  Islands),  and  the  Neotropical 
regions  (Mexico  to  Cape  Horn). 

The  boundaries  of  the  Western  Palaearctic  subregion  of  the 
Holarctic  region  march  with  those  of  the  Indian  region  roughly  along 
the  line  of  the  Himalayas  and  the  Afghan  and  Baluchi  borders  ;  and 
it  must  be  remembered  that  the  desert  areas  of  the  Punjab,  Sind  and 
Rajputana  are  part  of  the  great  Palaearctic  desert  which  starts  on  the 
Atlantic  coast  of  North  Africa  and  reaches  the  heart  of  China. 

The  Indian  region  of  course  needs  to  be  further  subdivided,  as 
China  and  the  Malays  have  characteristics  that  separate  them  off  from 
India.  India,  Burma  and  Ceylon  are  usually  considered  as 'forming 
an  Indian  subregion,  while  the  Himalayas  are  regarded  as  having 
closer  affinities  with  China  than  with  the  Indian  plains  at  their  base. 

The  student  of  Indian  ornithology  must  from  the  beginning 
realise  that  the  avifauna  of  his  area  is  not  homogeneous,  spread 


xxiv  INTRODUCTION 

over  India  evenly  as  butter  on  a  slice  of  bread.  He  must  obtain 
a  conception  of  it  as  divided  into  sections.  He  must  realise  that 
the  most  comprehensive  knowledge  of  the  birds  of  Simla  will  leave 
him  ignorant  of  the  species  that  he  will  meet  at  Ootacamund,  that 
the  avifauna  of  the  Sind  desert  has  hardly  a  common  feature  with 
the  avifauna  of  the  forests  of  Malabar. 

The  most  recent  endeavour  to  express  these  differences  is  that 
of  Blanford  in  the  Philosophical  Transactions  of  the  Royal  Society 
(Vol.  194,  1901,  pp.  335-436).  He  divides  India,  Burma  and  Ceylon 
into  five  primary  subdivisions  as  follows  : — 

(a)  The   Indo-Gangetic  plain, — This  extends  across  the  whole 

of  Northern  India  from  the  Arabian  Sea  to  the  Bay  of 
Bengal.  Its  boundaries  run  up  the  hill  ranges  from 
Karachi  to  Peshawar  and  thence  along  the  outer  spurs  of 
the  Himalayas  to  Bhutan  and  thence  roughly  southward 
to  east  of  the  Sunderbunds.  The  southern  boundary 
takes  a  line  from  the  Rann  of  Cutch  to  Delhi  and  from 
about  Agra  to  Rajmahal  whence  it  goes  south  to  the  Bay 
of  Bengal.  \a 

(b)  The  Indian  Peninsula,  southwards  of  the  above  area. 

(c)  Ceylon. 

(d)  The  Himalayas.     This  subdivision  includes  the  whole  area 

of  the  mountain  ranges  from  their  i,  jt-hills  up  to  the  limit 
of  tree-growth.  Above  forest  limits  *he  fauna  becomes 
Palaearctic  in  character. 

(e)  Assam  and  Burma.  «. 

These  five  subdivisions  may  again  be  further  divided  largely  in 
accordance  with  the  influence  of  rainfall,  while  along  the  Himalayas 
there  are  distinct  altitudinal  zones  which  affect  the  fauna.  Those 
who  are  interested  in  the  subject  are  advised  to  consult  Blanford's 
paper  in  the  original.  It  is  too  long  to  be  quoted  here,  and  its 
conclusions  may  have  to  be  modified  when  the  geographical  races 
of  Indian  birds  are  fully  worked  out. 

The  races  of  Indian  birds  follow  some  fairly  defined  lines. 
Himalayan  species  generally  have  an  Eastern  and  Western  race, 
meeting  about  Nepal,  the  Eastern  race  being  generally  darker  and 
smaller.  In  the  Peninsula  the  races  vary  to  some  extent  in  correlation 
with  the  total  distribution  of  the  species.  If  a  bird  is  common  and 
widely  distributed  throughout  India  and  the  neighbouring  areas  of 
the  Indian  subregion  it  will  often  be  found  to  have  special  races 
in  (i)  the  semi-desert  area  of  the  north-west ;  (2)  the  humid  area 
of  Assam  and  the  Eastern  Sub-Himalayan  duars  and  terais ;  (3)  the 
heavy  rain-area  of  the  lower  Western  Ghats  from  about  North 
Kanara  to  the  southern  limit  of  the  Travancore  ranges  ;  (4)  Ceylon  ; 


INTRODUCTION  xxv 

while  a  more  generalised  form  occupies  the  intervening  mass  of  the 
Peninsula,  grading  in  turn  into  each  race. 

If,  on  the  other  hand,  a  bird  has  a  more  limited  range,  the 
influence  of  these  areas  in  the  formation  of  races  appears  to  be  less 
strong  and  the  distribution  of  its  races  is  harder  to  forecast.  Humid 
areas  produce  dark  birds,  desert  areas  pale  birds.  North  and  west 
enlarge,  south  and  east  dwarf  their  birds. 

Finally,  one  must  regard  the  influence  of  migration.  The 
avifauna  of  India  or  of  any  square  mile  of  it  is  never  stationary, 
but  changes  season  by  season  in  response  to  the  great  tide  of  bird- 
life  which  sweeps  across  it  with  the  regularity  of  the  tides  of  the  sea. 
The  fundamental  principle  of  migration  is  easy  to  understand.  With 
the  changing  of  the  seasons  a  bird  which  summers  and  nests  in 
northern  latitudes  is  unable  to  find  food  in  those  latitudes  in  winter. 
It  therefore  moves  southwards  to  an  area  that  time  and  circumstances 
have  fixed  as  its  winter  quarters.  In  the  north  the  bird  is  known  as 
a  "  summer  visitor  "  and  in  the  south  as  a  "  winter  visitor,"  while  in 
the  intervening  countries  that  it  travels  over  it  is  a  "  passage  migrant." 
The  southerly  route  followed  in  the  "  autumn  passage "  is  not 
necessarily  the  same  as  the  route  by  which  it  returns  north  on  the 
"  spring  passage." 

India  lies  south  of  the  great  mass  of  Northern  and  Central  Asia, 
where  winter  conditions  are  very  severe  following  on  a  short  but 
luxuriant  summer.  It  is  not  strange,  therefore,  that  a  huge  wave  of 
bird-life  pours  down  to  winter  in  India  where  insect  and  vegetable 
food  is  so  abundant.  The  movement  starts  as  early  as  July,  and 
reaches  its  greatest  height  in  September ;  it  crosses  the  Himalayas 
from  both  ends,  and  gradually  converges  down  the  two  sides  of  the 
Peninsula  spending  its  strength  until  it  ends  finally  in  Ceylon.  In 
spring  the  wave  again  recedes,  starting  at  the  end  of  February,  and 
all  the  migrants  have  gone  by  the  end  of  May. 

Ceylon  is  one  of  the  few  countries  of  the  world  that  has  no 
summer  visitors,  for  it  lies  at  the  end  of  the  migration  routes  through 
India,  with  no  land  of  any  size  to  the  south  of  it. 

The  Indian  winter,  luxuriant  after  the  monsoons,  is  more  suit- 
able to  the  needs  of  bird-life  than  the  parched  Indian  summer. 
Geographical  position  and  physical  features,  therefore,  combine  to 
account  for  one  of  the  chief  ornithological  characteristics  of  India, 
that  it  is  practically  without  summer  visitors  from  beyond  its  borders. 
The  few  species  that  fall  under  this  category  are  confined  to  North- 
western India,  where  they  are  able  to  take  a  route  round  the  head 
of  the  Arabian  Gulf  to  winter  in  Africa. 

The  effect  of  migration  on  status  is  most  easily  shown  by  an 
example.  I  will  take  a  station  in  the  Punjab  and  indicate  the  various 
categories  of  birds  to  be  found  in  it. 


xxvi  INTRODUCTION 

There  are  first  of  all  the  Resident  species,  which  breed  there  and 
remain  the  whole  year  round,  such  as  the  Parrakeets  and  Babblers. 
A  few  Summer  visitors  arrive  to  breed,  such  as  the  Purple  Honey- 
sucker  and  Yellow-throated  Sparrow.  These,  if  they  are  late  arrivals, 
dependent  on  monsoon  conditions  for  their  food-supply,  are  known 
as  Rains  visitors.  But  both  Summer  and  Rains  visitors  have  this 
in  common,  for  the  most  part,  that  they  are  species  which  are 
residents  farther  south  in  India,  i.e.,  they  are  summer  visitors  merely 
in  the  northern  part  of  their  range  in  India  and  not,  as  our  summer 
visitors  in  England,  arrivals  from  distant  countries.  A  very  numerous 
class  is  that  of  the  Winter  visitors  which  breed  north  of  India 
altogether,  like  the  Waders  and  Ducks.  No  winter  visitor  arrives 
from  the  south.  There  are  two  more  large  classes,  the  Spring  and 
Autumn  Passage  Migrants,  such  as  Rose-Finches  and  Red-breasted 
Flycatchers,  temporarily  abundant  on  their  way  to  and  from  winter 
quarters  farther  south  in  the  Peninsula  and  Ceylon. 

It  must  be  remembered,  however,  that  Nature  is  seldom  clear-cut 
in  her  distinctions,  and  a  species  may  fall  under  more  than  one 
heading.  The  mass  of  Red-breasted  Flycatchers,  for  instance,  that 
pass  through  in  autumn  and  return  again  in  spring,  will  leave  a  few 
of  their  numbers  as  winter  visitors.  Some  individuals  of  another 
species  may  remain  as  residents  while  the  remainder  migrate. 

The  movements  indicated  above  come  under  the  heading  of  true 
migration,  a  tide  which  ebbs  and  flows  year  by  year  in  response  to 
the  annual  changes  of  the  seasons.  But  they  are  supplemented  by 
smaller  and  more  irregular  movements  known  as  Local  migration. 
These  are  due  to  different  causes.  In  India  the  most  frequent  cause 
is  variation  in  the  rainfall  and  its  consequent  effect  on  food-supply. 
A  prolonged  drought  will  drive  away  the  birds  from  a  locality,  good 
rains  will  fill  it  with  birds  where  previously  there  were  none. 

Along  the  Himalayas  and  the  neighbouring  ranges  there  is  a 
marked  seasonal  altitudinal  movement,  which  moves  the  resident 
birds  down  through  the  various  zones  in  response  to  the  lowering  of 
the  snow-line.  This,  particularly  in  severe  winters,  sends  a  wave 
of  stragglers  into  the  plains  of  Northern  India  in  January  and 
February.  A  plague  of  locusts  or  an  unusual  crop  of  seeds  may 
temporarily  upset  the  usual  distribution  of  several  species.  And 
finally  the  rudiments  of  local  migration  may  be  seen  in  the  way 
in  which  some  species  shift  their  ground  in  a  district  while  breeding. 
This  movement  may  be  very  slight,  merely  a  matter  of  a  few  miles, 
yet  it  is  of  interest  as  showing  the  evolution  of  the  great  migrations 
from  hemisphere  to  hemisphere. 

At  present  we  have  practically  no  detailed  knowledge  on  the 
subject  of  migration  in  India,  whether  true  or  local ;  records  and 
observations  on  it  are  badly  needed. 


INTRODUCTION  xxvii 

Hitherto  Indian  ornithology  has  fallen  into  very  definite  periods. 
The  first  period  revolves  around  the  pioneer  work  by  Hodgson, 
Jerdon  and  Blyth,  and  found  its  expression  in  Jerdon's  Birds  of  India, 
published  in  1862. 

The  second  period  is  dominated  by  Hume  (also  the  founder  of 
the  Indian  Congress)  who  directed  and  marshalled  the  labours  of  a 
number  of  notable  workers.  This  period  found  its  fitting  expression 
not  in  a  single  comprehensive  work  but  in  the  packed  and 
miscellaneous  volumes  of  Stray  Feathers,  a  periodical  which 
appeared  in  parts  from  1872  to  1888. 

With  1889  appeared  the  first  volume  of  the  Fauna  of  British 
India,  Birds,  by  Blanford  and  Gates,  followed  at  intervals  by  three 
other  volumes.  This  work  completely  dominated  Indian  ornithology 
down  to  about  1922. 

In  1922  Mr  Stuart-Baker  produced  his  first  volume  of  the  second 
edition  of  the  Fauna.  With  this  has  opened  the  fourth  period  of 
Indian  ornithology,  which  will  be  memorable  for  its  introduction 
of  the  trinomial  system.  Its  progress  is  still  in  the  moulding,  and 
I  can  only  hope  that  this  book  of  mine  will  help  more  than  one 
beginner  to  take  his  share  in  the  advancement  of  Indian  ornithology. 

The  day  is  now  over  in  which  it  was  necessary  to  collect  large 
series  of  skins  and  eggs  in  India.  Enough  general  collecting  has 
been  done ;  concentration  on  filling  in  the  gaps  in  our  knowledge 
is  now  needed.  Those  who  wish  to  help  in  the  work  should  first 
familiarise  themselves  with  what  has  been  accomplished  and  learn 
what  remains  to  be  done.  With  some  species  the  distribution  of  the 
different  races  still  needs  to  be  worked  out  and  this  implies  careful 
collecting  in  certain  areas.  Of  other  species  we  still  need  to  know 
the  plumage  changes ;  for  this  specimens  collected  at  certain  times 
of  the  year  are  required.  In  other  species  the  down  and  juvenile 
plumages  are  unknown.  But  the  greatest  need  of  all  is*  accurate 
observations  on  status  and  migration.  In  this  all  can  help.  Keep 
full  notes  for  a  year  on  the  birds  of  your  station,  noting  those  that 
are  resident  and  the  times  of  arrival  and  departure,  comparative 
abundance  and  scarcity  of  all  the  migratory  kinds ;  and  you  will 
have  made  a  contribution  to  ornithology  that  will  in  the  measure 
of  its  accuracy  and  fullness  be  a  help  to  every  other  worker. 

The  wonderful  avifauna  of  India  is  still  unspoilt  and  almost  in  its 
entirety.  Let  us  chronicle  and  appreciate  it  while  we  may  and 
endeavour  in  return  to  awake  an  appreciation  of  its  value  *and 
interest  so  that  steps  to  preserve  it  may  advance  part  passu  with  the 
destructive  influences.  These  have  already  started.  The  irrigation 
of  vast  tracts  has  already  made  considerable  changes  in  the  fauna, 
the  interesting  desert  forms  giving  place  to  less  specialised  and  widely 
common  birds.  With  the  passing  away  of  the  Arms  Act  one  of  the 


xxviii  INTRODUCTION 

greatest  barriers  to  the  wasteful  destruction  of  bird-life  by  ignorance 
and  greed  has  been  broken  down,  at  the  very  moment  when  the 
opening  up  of  the  country  by  the  motor-car  has  lessened  the  number 
of  natural  sanctuaries.  So  in  return  for  the  interest  of  your  study 
of  the  Indian  avifauna,  endeavour  to  protect  it  and  awaken  public 
opinion  to  the  task. 

In  conclusion,  I  have  to  acknowledge  my  indebtedness  on  many 
sides  in  the  writing  of  this  book.  While  I  owe  something  directly 
or  indirectly  to  every  naturalist  who  has  worked  in  Jndia,  my 
obligations  are  very  deep  to  the  authors  of  .both  editions  of  the 
Fauna  series,  Messrs  Blanford  and  Gates  and  Mr  Stuart-Baker. 
Mr  N.  B.  Kinnear  of  the  British  Museum  has  given  me  much 
valuable  advice  and  encouragement.  And  especially  I  owe  much 
to  the  help  and  enthusiasm  of  Dr  Claud  B.  Ticehurst,  who  has 
kindly  read  through  the  text  of  the  book  in  order  to  ensure  its 
accuracy. 

HUGH  WHISTLER 


The  Common  Mynah.    (J  nat.  size). 


POPULAR  HANDBOOK  OF 
INDIAN  BIRDS 


FIG.  i — Raven 


({  nat,  size) 


THE    RAVEN 
CORVUS  CORAX  Linnaeus 

Description. — Length  24  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Entirely  black, 
glossed  with  steel-blue,  purple  and  lilac. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

The  feathers  of  the  throat  are  prolonged  into  conspicuous 
hackles. 

Field  Identification. — Plains  of  North-western  India.  Distinguished 
from  all  other  Crows  by  the  large  size,  complete  blackness,  the  throat 
hackles,  and  the  distinctive  call-note.  Only  likely  to  be  confused  with 
the  Jungle  Crow,  but  both  species  do  not  usually  occur  in  the  same 
locality. 

Distribution. — The  Raven  is  found  in  almost  every  part  of  the 
Northern  Hemisphere,  in  Europe,  Northern  Africa,  Asia,  and  North 
America,  and  is  divided  into  several  races  distinguished  by  size  and 
the  shape  of  the  bill.  We  are  only  concerned  with  one  race,  C.  c. 
subcoraXy  which  is  the  resident  bird  of  Western  Asia,  Turkestan, 
Baluchistan,  and  North-western  India,  though  it  appears  to  some 

A 


z  POPULAR   HANDBOOK    OF   INDIAN    BIRDS 

extent  to  be  locally  migratory.  In  India  it  is  found  in  the  Punjab, 
North-west  Frontier  Province,  Sind,  and  the  desert  portions  of 
Western  Rajputana  and  occasionally  in  British  India.  No  Raven 
occurs  in  the  Himalayas  proper  until  the  Tibetan  tracts  of  their 
northern  face  are  reached,  and  there  in  the  barren  wastes  above 
10,000  feet  is  found  the  so-called  Tibetan  Raven  (C.  c.  tibetanus), 
a  huge  bird,  perhaps  identical  with  the  Greenland  form. 

Habits,  etc. — In  North-western  India  the  Raven  is  a  very  abundant 
species  in  the  drier  and  more  barren  portions  of  the  plains  and  about 
the  low  rocky  hill  ranges  which  crop  up  here  and  there.  In  the 
irrigated  and  better  cultivated  tracts  it  is  scarcer,  as  also  in  the  more 
thickly  wooded  districts. 

Although  while  nesting  it  prefers  solitude,  at  other  times  it 
is  distinctly  social,  and  fifteen  or  twenty  birds  may  often  be  seen 
together  on  the  outskirts  of  villages,  towns,  and  camps,  marching 
sedately  about  the  ground,  turning  over  and  examining  the  refuse 
of  man.  For  in  India  the  Raven  is  a  common  scavenger,  bold  and 
dissolute  as  any  Crow ;  though  it  retains  when  need  arises  all  the 
wariness  that  in  England  is  associated  with  a  scarce  and  shy  bird 
that  avoids  the  haunts  of  man.  It  is  particularly  common  about 
cantonment  stations. 

The  food  is  very  varied  ;  in  addition  to  the  scraps  collected 
in  the  course  of  its  scavenging  the  Raven  does  a  certain  amount  of 
damage  to  crops,  for  instan.ce  cutting  off  and  carrying  away  whole 
heads  of  millet,  and  a  pair  are  generally  found  with  the  Vultures 
at  every  carcass. 

The  ordinary  call-note  is  a  frequently  uttered  deep  pruk,  pruk. 
The  flight  is  strong  and  straight,  and  the  massive  head  and  beak 
project  conspicuously  in  advance  of  the  wings.  The  birds  seem 
to  pair  for  life,  though  many  pairs  collect  together  where  food  is 
plentiful.  Like  the  other  Crows  the  Ravens  roost  in  companies, 
often  fifty  or  sixty  together,  flighting  to  the  selected  spot  towards 
the  fall  of  dusk,  flying  fast  and  moderately  low  over  the  ground. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  December  to  March,  though  most 
eggs  will  be  found  in  January  and  February. 

The  nest  is  a  large,  stout  structure  of  sticks  with  the  cup  thickly 
lined  with  rags,  wool,  hair,  and  similar  rubbish.  It  is  placed  either 
in  the  fork  of  a  large  tree,  often  close  to  a  well  or  house,  or  on  the 
ledges  of  rock  and  clay  cliffs.  The  birds  often  exhibit  a  tendency 
to  attack  the  climber  who  goes  up  to  secure  their  eggs. 

The  clutch  varies  from  four  to  six  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  moderately  broad  oval,  considerably  pointed  towards 
the  smaller  end  ;  the  shell  is  close  and  firm,  with  only  a  slight  gloss. 
The  ground-colour  varies  from  greenish-blue  to  dingy  olive  or  pale 
stone-colour.  The  markings  are  blackish-brown,  sepia,  olive-brown, 


THE    RAVEN  3 

and  pale  inky-purple,  distributed  in  spots,  speckles,   blotches,  and 
streaky  clouds,  the  eggs  in  one  clutch  usually  being  all  of  one  type, 
though  there  is  much  variety  between  different  clutches. 
In  size  the  eggs  average  about  1-94  by  1-31  inches. 


THE    JUNGLE    CROW 
CORVUS  MACRORHYNCHOS  Wagler 

Description. — Length  17  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Entire  plumage 
black  with  a  dark  blue  or  purple  gloss. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Field  Identification. — A  typical  Crow,  entirely  black,  and  inter- 
mediate in  size  between  the  ordinary  House  Crow  and  the  Raven  ; 
to  be  distinguished  from  the  former  by  the  absence  of  any  grey  on 
the  hind  neck  and  breast,  and  from  the  latter  by  the  smaller  size 
and  the  difference  in  call  caw  caw,  that  of  the  Raven  being  a  hoarse 
bark  pruk,  pruk.  Usually  gregarious,  except  at  nest. 

Distribution. — India,  Burma,  Ceylon,  extending  to  South-east 
Asia.  It  is  divided  into  various  races  which  are  separated  on  minor 
points  of  size  and  coloration  of  the  base  of  the  feathers,  and  are 
distinguished  with  difficulty  except  in  a  series.  Three  races  concern 
us.  C.  m.  intermedius  is  found  along  the  whole  length  of  the  Himalayas 
from  Afghanistan  to  Bhutan  and  is  the  familiar  Crow  of  all  the 
Himalayan  hill  stations  from  Gulmurg  to  Nepal.  It  occurs  from 
the  foot-hills  up  to  13,000  feet.  The  smallest  race,  C.  m.  culminatus, 
occurs  in  Ceylon  and  the  whole  of  the  Indian  Peninsula  up  to  a  line 
through  Thar  and  Parkar,  Delhi  and  Ambala  on  the  west,  growing 
gradually  in  size  until  about  Calcutta  it  becomes  the  large  bow-beaked 
C.  m.  macrorhynchos  found  in  Assam  and  Burma.  All  these  races  are 
strictly  resident  and  they  may  prove  to  be  races  of  the  Carrion  Crow 
(Corvus  corone)  of  Europe,  which  certainly  has  a  race  C.  c.  orientalis 
in  Ladakh  and  Baltistan.  The  Rook  (Corvus  frugilegus)  which  occurs 
in  North-west  India  in  winter  in  vast  numbers  may  be  distinguished 
by  its  finer,  more  pointed  beak  and  the  bare  white  scabrous  patch 
round  its  base  in  adults. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Jungle  Crow  is,  as  its  name  implies,  and  in 
contradistinction  to  the  House  Crow,  a  bird  of  the  forests  and  jungles 
rather  than  of  the  haunts  of  men  throughout  the  Peninsula  of  India  ; 
though  it  often  visits  cities  and  villages  for  the  sake  of  scavenging. 
It  is  not  as  bold 'as  the  House  Crow  in  entering  verandahs  or  in 
deliberately  stealing  food  from  the  actual  possession  of  man.  The 
Himalayan  race,  however,  is  bolder  in  this  respect  than  the  plains 
bird,  and  in  all  the  Himalayan  sanatoria  this  Crow  replaces  the  House 


4  POPULAR   HANDBOOK   OF   INDIAN   BIRDS 

Crow  as  the  common  scavenger  round  houses,  though  it  is  never  as 
much  at  home  in  the  bazaars  as  is  the  smaller  bird. 

Although  not  actually  nesting  in  rookeries,  the  Jungle  Crow  is 
found  scattered  throughout  the  extensive  sal  forests  of  the  U.P.  and 
Central  India.  It  is  usually  the  first  bird  to  discover  the  more  or 
less  well  concealed  kill  of  a  tiger  or  leopard,  which  it  advertises  by 
a  peculiar  loud  "  caw  "  recognised  by  other  crows  in  the  vicinity  and 
of  great  assistance  to  the  shikari  on  the  look-out  for  tiger  "  Khabbar." 
It  is  a  highly  gregarious  species,  numbers  feeding  in  company  or 
collecting  together  at  the  scene  of  any  object  of  interest,  whether  food 
to  eat,  a  fox  or  bird  of  prey  to  mob,  or  a  disturbing  human  element  to 
swear  at.  Large  numbers  collect  to  roost  in  special  patches  of  forest, 
though  never  so  many  together  as  in  the  case  of  the  House  Crow. 
In  the  hills  this  Crow  is  very  fond  of  soaring  and  circling  at  a  great 
height  in  the  air  and  twenty  or  thirty  often  do  this  in  company, 
exhibiting  a  complete  mastery  of  all  the  arts  of  flying. 

Like  other  Crows  this  species  is  omnivorous,  scraps  of  human 
food,  refuse,  flying  ants,  fruit,  berries,  small  mammals  and  birds, 
insects,  carrion,  all  are  welcome  to  it ;  while  it  is  particularly  destruc- 
tive to  the  eggs  and  young  of  all  birds.  I  have  seen  it  settling  on 
the  packs  of  mule  trains  crossing  the  high  passes,  travelling  with 
them  and  tearing  holes  in  the  packs  to  get  at  the  contained  corn. 

Its  voice  is  not  disagreeable,  the  ordinary  call  being  a  variable 
caw  rather  reminiscent  of  that  of  the  English  Rook,  sometimes  harsh, 
sometimes  almost  melodious  in  tone,  and  very  often  distinctly  like 
the  quack  of  a  domestic  duck  ;  a  harsh  allah  or  ayah  is  also  uttered, 
and  in  addition  as  it  meditates  on  a  shady  bough  during  the  heat 
of  the  day  it  indulges  in  a  succession  of  amusing  gurgles  and  croaks. 
As  I  write,  several  are  conversing  in  the  trees  outside  my  room,  the 
sound  recalling  memories  of  early  spring  in  England,  with  swaying 
elms  and  rooks  preparing  to  nest. 

The  various  races  of  the  Jungle  Crow  throughout  our  area  agree  for 
the  most  part  in  laying  their  eggs  from  March  to  May,  but  in  the  plains 
a  few  nests  will  be  found  with  eggs  as  early  as  the  middle  of  December. 

The  nest  is  a  large,  moderately  deep  cup,  composed  of  twigs  and 
small  sticks,  lined  with  hair,  dry  grass,  wool,  coco-nut  fibre  and  similar 
substances.  Some  nests  are  massive  and  well  built ;  others  are 
somewhat  sketchy  affairs. 

In  the  Himalayas  they  are  often  placed  in  deodars  or  species 
of  pine,  while  in  the  plains  mangoes  and  tamarinds  are  said  to  be 
preferred ;  but  with  these  reservations,  the  nest  may  be  built  in  any 
species  of  tree,  and  it  is  often  surprising  how  well  so  bulky  a  structure 
is  concealed  from  a  casual  glance.  The  tree  selected  is  occasionally 
in  the  midst  of  a  bazaar  or  garden,  but  most  pairs  build  away  in  the 
jungle  but  in  easy  reach  of  some  village. 


THE   COMMON   HOUSE   CROW  7 

lower  temperature  of  the  Himalayas  and  the  comparative  abundance 
there  of  the  stronger  Jungle  Crow. 

This  Crow  is  highly  gregarious,  and  this  trait  is  nowhere  more 
clearly  demonstrated  than  at  the  roost.  Many  thousands  of  birds 
sleep  together  in  company  in  a  selected  patch  of  trees,  often  acres 
in  extent ;  and  the  morning  and  evening  flight  from  and  to  the  roost 
is  a  most  conspicuous  event,  as  an  unending  stream  of  birds  arrives 
or  departs.  In  the  morning  the  birds  leave  in  a  body,  hungry  and 
impatient  for  food,  and  the  flight  is  soon  over,  but  in  the  evening 
their  arrival  is  much  more  protracted.  An  hour  or  two  before  dusk 
the  first  stragglers  appear  and  their  numbers  gradually  increase, 
until  at  the  end  an  unbroken  line  of  birds  extends  across  the  sky, 
till  darkness  falls  and  puts  an  end  to  the  unceasing  clamour  that 
accompanies  every  operation  of  this  bird's  life. 

During  the  flight  small  parties  have  the  habit,  so  often  seen 
amongst  Rooks  in  England,  of  swirling  suddenly  down  from  a 
height  in  the  sky  almost  to  the  ground.  The  roosting-places  are 
always  littered  with  the  remains  of  dead  Crows,  and  their  mortality 
is  heavy,  partly  no  doubt  from  disease  and  partly  from  the 
depredations  of  Peregrines  and  Eagle-Owls.  These  roosting  flights 
show  no  apparent  diminution  even  during  the  breeding  season,  and 
this  is  due  to  the  fact  that  this  species  does  not  breed  during  its 
first  year.  While  not  nesting  in  colonies  after  the  fashion  of  the 
Rook,  the  House  Crow  is  so  numerous  that  numbers  of  nests  may 
be  found  within  a  small  radius. 

Familiarity  with  man  has  made  the  House  Crow  bold  and  thievish 
to  a  degree.  It  sidles  into  rooms,  alert  and  keen,  ready  to  retreat 
at  the  least  alarm,  and  with  a  sudden  bounce  and  dash  removes  food 
from  the  table ;  it  robs  the  shops  in  the  bazaar  if  they  are  left 
unattended  for  a  moment ;  it  snatches  sweetmeats  off  the  trays  of  the 
vendors* at  railway  stations.  Yet  with  all  this  familiarity  and  boldness 
it  retains  the  wariness  and  sagacity  of  the  family  and  is  quick  to  take 
a  hint  of  real  danger  and  evade  it. 

And  not  only  man  suffers  from  this  impudent  Crow  ;  it  mobs 
birds  of  prey,  more  especially  the  Owls  and  Eagles,  on  occasions 
actually  buffeting  them ;  and  I  have  seen  Vultures  sitting  gorged 
on  the  ground  much  worried  by  a  sort  of  game  of  "  Tom  Tiddler's 
Ground  "  played  by  Crows  who  insisted  on  hopping  on  and  off  their 
backs.  They  perch  on  the  backs  of  bullocks  and  mules  pecking 
bits  of  flesh  from  raw  saddle-galls,  though  at  times  their  attentions 
are  welcome  for  they  also  remove  ticks  and  other  vermin.  They 
rob  dogs  and  fowls  of  their  food,  and  in  general  steal  and  bully 
to  the  utmost  extent  of  their  opportunities.  Yet  with  all  their 
manifold  villanies  there  is  much  that  is  attractive  about  the  sleek, 
intelligent,  shameless  bird  that  is  the  companion  of  our  daily  life 


8  POPULAR   HANDBOOK   OF   INDIAN   BIRDS 

in  India.  There  is  only  one  living  thing  that  habitually  gets  the 
better  of  the  House  Crow — a  claim  which  man  certainly  cannot 
make ;  the  KoeFs  whole  life-history  is  based  on  the  assumption 
that  it  can  at  will  circumvent  and  deceive  the  Crow,  and  this  it 
does,  substituting  its  own  eggs  for  those  of  the  Crow  and  making 
the  latter  bring  up  its  young. 

This  bird  is  absolutely  omnivorous  ;  it  will  eat  anything  that  man 
will  eat,  and  innumerable  things  that  he  will  not. 

The  ordinary  call  is  a  cawing  note  rather  softer  in  tone  than  that 
of  the  larger  Crows. 

The  breeding  season  is  very  regular  in  the  North-west,  eggs 
being  laid  from  the  middle  of  June  till  the  middle  of  July.  In  the 
rest  of  India  numbers  also  lay  in  April  and  May,  and  occasionally 
nests  are  found  in  November,  December  and  January. 

The  nest  is  built  in  a  fork  of  a  tree,  and  is  a  shallow  cup  of  sticks, 
sometimes  neat  and  well  made,  sometimes  sketchy  and  ragged ;  it  is 
lined  with  grass  roots,  wool,  rags,  vegetable  fibre,  and  similar  miscel- 
laneous substances.  Instances  are  on  record  of  nests  built  partly  or 
exclusively  of  wire. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  four  or  five  eggs,  but  six  or  seven 
are  occasionally  met  with.  The  egg  is  a  broad  oval,  rather  pointed 
at  the  smaller  end.  The  texture  is  hard  and  fine  and  there  is  a  fair 
gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  any  shade  of  blue-green,  and  is  blotched, 
speckled  and  streaked  with  dull  reddish-brown,  pale  sepia,  grey  and 
neutral  tint. 

In  size  the  eggs  average  about  1*45  by  1*05  inches. 


THE    JACKDAW 
CORVUS  MONEDULA  Linnaeus 

Description. — Length  13  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  whole  upper 
plumage,  wings  and  tail  glossy  black ;  a  broad  collar  from  the  sides 
of  the  head  round  the  back  of  the  neck  dusky  grey,  becoming  so  pale 
in  parts  as  to  be  almost  white ;  chin,  throat,  and  fore-neck  black ; 
remainder  of  lower  plumage  dull  slaty-black. 

Iris  whitish  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Field  Identification. — Extreme  North-western  India  and  Kashmir. 
Distinguished  from  the  House  Crow  by  the  smaller  size,  the  fact 
that  the  grey  is  confined  merely  to  a  collar,  the  white  eye,  and  the 
very  musical  call. 

Distribution. — The  Jackdaw  is  widely  distributed  in  Europe,  in 
Algeria,  and  in  parts  of  Northern  and  Western  Asia.  Of  its  races 


THE  JACKDAW  9 

we  are  only  concerned  with  C.  m.  monedula,  which  apparently  breeds 
from  Scandinavia  and  Russia  to  the  Yenisei  and  south  to  Persia, 
Afghanistan,  and  Kashmir.  In  winter  numbers  appear  from  the 
middle  of  October  to  the  beginning  of  March  in  the  North-west 
Frontier  Province  west  of  the  Indus,  and  in  the  Punjab  districts 
along  the  base  of  the  North-western  Himalayas. 

The  traveller  to  Baltistan  and  Ladakh  will  find  the  Magpie  (Pica 
pica)  common  in  the  sparse  groves  in  the  valleys  and  he  will  Jbe 
agreeably  surprised  at  its  tameness  compared  with  the  persecuted 
English  bird.  It  is  also  found  in  Baluchistan. 

Habits,  etc. — No  one  who  has  visited  the  Vale  of  Kashmir  can 
have  failed  to  notice  the  Jackdaws,  which  are  extremely  common 
there  all  the  year  round,  and  with  their  cheerful,  familiar  calls 
largely  contribute  to  the  extremely  English  air  of  the  European 
quarters,  of  Srinagar.  Great  numbers  live  in  the  trees  and  buildings 
all  round  Srinagar,  feeding  in  the  fields  and  on  the  grassy  lawns, 
and  becoming  as  tame  and  impudent  in  their  behaviour  as  the 
House  Crow  is  in  the  plains.  These  birds  roost  in  the  willows  of 
the  Dal  Lake,  and  the  morning  and  evening  flight  of  the  Jackdaws  from 
and  to  their  dormitory  is  one  of  the  ornithological  sights  of  Srinagar. 

In  winter  when  it  arrives  in  the  Punjab  the  Jackdaw  is  found  in 
flocks  which  associate  with  the  immense  flights  of  Rooks  (Corvus 
frugilegus)  that  appear  about  the  same  time  and  in  the  same 
localities.  The  flight  is  strong  and  fairly  fast,  but  the  Jackdaw  has 
rather  quicker  wing-beats  than  the  Rook  and  can  also  be  distinguished 
in  the  air  by  its  smaller  size.  The  call  is  more  musical  than  that  of 
most  Crows,  being  a  melodious  Jack  and  cae,  ringing  with  cheerful- 
ness and  well-being ;  these  calls  are  responsible  for  the  English 
name,  the  first  syllable  also  exemplifying  the  English  practice  of 
personifying  familiar  species,  as  in  Magpie  and  Jenny- Wren.  The 
whole  demeanour  of  the  bird  is  pert  and  knowing,  and  it  makes 
a  delightful  pet,  some  individuals  learning  to  talk ;  though  the 
irresistible  attraction  which  small  bright  articles  have  for  the 
Jackdaw  often  makes  it  a  nuisance  about  a  house  when  tame 
enough  to  be  allowed  out  of  its  cage. 

In  Kashmir  the  breeding  season  is  from  April  to  June.  The 
nest  is  a  massive  cup  of  dirty  wool,  rags,  and  hair  on  a  foundation 
of  sticks  and  thorny  twigs,  and  it  is  placed  in  holes  in  rocks,  buildings, 
and  trees.  Numbers  of  pairs  breed  in  colonies  wherever  suitable 
nest-holes  are  available. 

The  clutch  consists  of  four  to  six  eggs. 

The  egg  is  an  elongated  oval,  somewhat  compressed  towards  the 
smaller  end  ;  the  shell  is  fine  and  stout  but  there  is  only  a  faint  gloss. 
The  ground-colour  is  pale  greenish-blue,  speckled  and  spotted  with 
deep  blackish-brown,  olive-brown,  and  pale  inky-purple ;  these 


io  POPULAR   HANDBOOK    OF   INDIAN    BIRDS 

markings  are  sometimes  fine  and  close,  at  other  times  bold  and 
thinly  set,  but  on  the  whole  the  eggs  of  the  Jackdaw  are  more  lightly 
marked  than  those  of  most  of  the  family  of  Crows. 
In  size  they  average  about  1-40  by  0*98  inches. 


THE  YELLOW-BILLED  BLUE-MAGPIE 
UROCISSA  FLAVIROSTRIS  (Blyth) 

Description. — Length  26  inches,  including  tail  of  about  18  inches. 
Sexes  alike.  Head,  neck,  and  breast  black,  with  a  white  patch  on 
the  nape  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  white,  faintly  tinged  with 
lilac  ;  whole  upper  plumage  purplish-blue,  brighter  on  the  wings  and 
tail ;  flight-feathers  tipped  with  white,  the  outermost  edged  with  the 
same ;  tail  long  and  graduated,  the  feathers  blue,  broadly  tipped 
with  white,  all  except  the  very  long  central  pair  having  a  band  of 
black  in  front  of  the  white. 

Iris  bright  yellow  ;  bill  waxen  yellow  ;  legs  bright  orange-yellow. 

Field  Identification. — Purely  Himalayan  form ;  in  noisy  parties 
amongst  trees.  A  conspicuous  long  tail,  greatly  graduated,  and  at 
the  end  drooping  in  a  graceful  curve.  In  jungle  appears  dull  greyish- 
blue,  with  white  under  surface  and  white  tips  to  tail-feathers. 

Distribution. — The  Yellow-billed  Magpie  is  found  throughout 
the  Himalayas  from  Hazara  to  the  Brahmaputra.  It  is  divided  into 
two  races.  Of  these  U.  f.  cucullata  is  the  better  known  and  is 
found  from  the  Western  boundary  of  the  range  to  Western  Nepal, 
being  a  common  species  about  most  of  the  hill  stations  of  the 
Western  Himalayas,  breeding  in  a  zone  from  5000  to  10,000  feet. 
The  typical  form  is  found  from  Eastern  Nepal  eastwards  and  differs 
in  that  the  under  parts  have  a  darker  lilac  tinge  ;  its  zone  is  slightly 
higher  than  that  of  the  Western  form,  as  it  seldom  occurs  'as  low 
as  6000  feet.  A  resident  species,  but  during  the  winter  months  it 
usually  deserts  the  higher  parts  of  its  summer  zone. 

From  Simla  eastwards  the  closely  allied  Red-billed  Blue-Magpie 
(Urocissa  melanocephala)  is  often  found  in  the  same  areas  as  the 
yellow-billed  species ;  it  is  particularly  common  about  Mussoorie, 
Tehri-Garhwal,  -Kumaon,  and  in  Nepal,  and  may  be  easily 
distinguished  by  its  red  beak  and  the  greater  extent  of  the  white 
nape-patch. 

The  lovely  Green-Magpie  (Cissa  chinensis)  is  found  in  forest  along 
the  lower  Himalayas  from  the  Jamna  eastwards  and  in  parts  of  Assam, 
Eastern  Bengal  and  Burma.  It  is  brilliant  green  in  colour  (which  has 
a  tendency  to  fade  to  blue)  with  a  black  band  through  the  eye  and 
red  bill,  wings  and  tail. 


THE   YELLOW-BILLED   BLUE-MAGPIE  11 

Habits,  etc. — The  Blue-Magpies  are,  as  may  be  judged  from  their 
handsome  tails,  essentially  arboreal  birds  ;  though,  while  they  are 
most  usually  to  be  met  with  in  heavy  jungle  areas,  they  also  venture 
out  into  the  trees  amongst  cultivation,  and  at  times  on  to  bare 
mountain  sides  at  high  elevations.  They  frequently  feed  on  the 
ground  and  then  adopt  a  curious  hopping  gait,  with  the  tail  held 
high  to  prevent  it  coming  into  contact  with  the  ground.  They  live 
in  parties  of  seven  or  eight  birds  and  are  very  partial  to  particular 
localities,  so  that  once  a  party  has  taken  up  its  abode  in  any  particular 


pIGt  3 — Yellow-billed  Blue-Magpie    (i  nat.  size) 

nullah  or  patch  of  forest  it  will  generally  be  found  there.  They  are 
very  active,  flying  incessantly  from  bough  to  bough  and  not  hesitating 
to  launch  high  into  the  air  when  flying  from  ridge  to  ridge  ;  a  party 
of  these  bird£  crossing  a  nullah  out  of  gun-shot  above  one's  head  is 
a  curious  sight,  with  their  long  tails  waving  in  the  air  and  the  light 
shining  through  the  feathers.  The  flight  is  rather  slow,  laboured 
and  undulating  once  the  bird  comes  into  the  open.  The  food  consists 
of  small  mammals,  the  eggs  and  young  of  other  birds,  insects,  and 
wild  fruits  and  berries  of  various  kinds.  This  bird  is  very  noisy ; 
the  ordinary  call  is  harsh  and  grating,  but  it  has  a  wide  variety  of 
notes,  some  of  which  are  melodious  enough. 

The  nest  is  built  in  a  fork  of  a  tree,  usually  of  moderate  size  but 


12  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF   INDIAN    BIRDS 

with  dense  foliage,  and  is  difficult  to  find.  It  is  a  rather  large  and 
roughly  constructed  cup  of  sticks  with  a  lining  of  fine  grass,  roots 
and  fibres. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs.  The  ground-colour 
varies  from  a  pale,  dingy  yellowish-stone  colour  to  a  darkish  rather 
reddish-stone  colour,  and  there  is  very  occasionally  a  faint  greenish 
tinge.  The  markings  consist  of  small  specks,  blotches,  streaks,  and 
mottlings  of  various  shades  of  brown,  sienna1  or  purple,  and  they 
generally  tend  to  collect  in  a  cap  or  zone  about  the  broad  end  of 
the  egg. 

The  egg  measures  about  1-20  by  0*92  inches. 


THE  INDIAN  TREE-PIE 
DENDROCITTA  VAGABUNDA  (Latham) 

Description. — Length  18  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  whole  head 
and  neck  with  the  breast  sooty  brown  ;  remainder  of  the  body  plumage 
bright  rufous,  darker  on  the  back  ;  wing-coverts  greyish-white  ;  wings 
dark  brown,  with  a  large  conspicuous  greyish-white  patch  on  the  sides 
extending  almost  their  whole  length  when  closed ;  tail  long  and 
graduated  with  the  central  feathers  elongated,  ashy-grey,  each  feather 
broadly  tipped  with  black. 

Iris  reddish-brown  ;  bill  slaty  horn-colour,  albescent  at  the  base  ; 
legs  dark  brown,  claws  horn-colour. 

Field  Identification. — A  bright  rufous  magpie  with  sooty  head  and 
neck,  and  impressions  of  grey,  black  and  white  in  the  wings  and  tail ; 
a  strictly  arboreal  bird  of  open  forest,  often  near  gardens,  usually  in 
pairs,  with  a  very  musical  call. 

Distribution. — The  whole  of  India  and  Burma  from  the  Indus  and 
the  Lower  Himalayas  to  Travancore,  and  from  Assam  to  Tenasserim 
and  Siam.  A  strictly  resident  species. 

Like  most  widely-spread  and  common  birds  the  Indian  Tree-Pie 
is  divided  into  several  races,  distinguished  by  size  and  the  relative 
depth  in  colouring  of  the  body  plumage.  There  is  much  intergrading 
between  them,  and  authorities  in  consequence  differ  as  to  their  number 
and  distribution.  The  typical  race  is  found  in  North-east  India  including 
the  outer  fringe  of  the  Himalayas  from  Nepal  to  Assam  and  Central 
India,  being  replaced  by  D.  v.  pallida  in  the  North-western  Hima- 
layas, North-west  Frontier  Province,  Sind,  Punjab,  and  Rajputana. 
A  small  dark  race,  D.  v.  parvula,  occurs  in  the  rain  area  of  the 
Western  coast  from  South  Kanara  to  Cape  Comorin,  while  a  small 
pale  race,  D.  v.  vernayi,  occurs  in  the  rest  of  Southern  and  Eastern 
India  up  to  the  Godavari  River.  Although  essentially  a  bird  of  the 


THE   INDIAN  TREE-PIE  13 

plains  of  Continental  India  this  Tree-Pie  is  found  in  hill  country  up 
to  about  5000  feet,  including  the  outer  fringe  of  the  Himalayas. 

Two  closely  allied  species,  the  Himalayan  Tree-Pie  (Dendrocitta 
formosa)  and  the  Southern  Tree-Pie  (Dendrocitta  leucogastra),  are 
common  in  the  Lower  Himalayas  and  from  Mysore  to  Travancore 
respectively.  The  former  is  grey  and  brown  with  no  rufous  in  the 
plumage  except  below  the  base  of  the  tail.  The  latter  has  a  black 
mask  in  sharp  contrast  to  the  white  collar  and  under  parts. 


FIG.  4 — Indian  Tree-Pie     (i  nat.  size) 

Habits,  etc. — The  Tree-Pie  is,  as  its  name  denotes,  essentially 
arboreal,  and  it  is  practically  never  seen  to  visit  the  ground  ;  though 
I  have  known  it  come  into  a  verandah  and  climb  about  the  chicks 
in  order  to  catch  the  yellow  wasp  which  habitually  builds  its  nest 
in  houses.  It  also  climbs  about  trunks  and  branches  of  trees,  hanging 
on  with  the  claws  and  partly  supported  by  the  tail  as  it  searches  the 
crevices  of  the  bark  for  insects.  It  is  found  not  so  much  in  heavy 
forest  as  in  open  country  where  large  trees  grow  in  clumps  and 
avenues,  and  it  is  also  very  partial  to  gardens.  But  although  it  is  in 


14  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

consequence  common  in  the  immediate  vicinity  of  man  it  is  a  some- 
what shy  bird,  living  amidst  the  thicker  foliage  and  usually  only  seen 
in  glimpses  as  it  flies  from  tree  to  tree  in  front  of  the  observer.  It 
is  found  in  pairs  or  small  parties.  The  flight  is  dipping,  the  bird 
alternately  flapping  the  wings  for  several  beats  and  then  gliding  with 
them  stiffly  outspread.  The  food  consists  of  fruit,  berries,  insects, 
caterpillars,  lizards,  and  small  snakes,  and  this  bird  has  the  reputation 
of  being  one  of  the  most  destructive  enemies  in  India  to  the  eggs 
and  young  of  other  species. 

The  Tree-Pie  is  found  throughout  the  sal  forests  of  Northern 
and  Central  India  and  is  invaluable  to  the  initiated  in  pointing  out 
the  whereabouts  of  tiger  or  leopard  kills.  In  the  discovery  of  kills 
the  Tree-Pie  competes  with  the  Jungle  Crow. 

The  ordinary  call  is  a  loud  and  most  melodious  kokli  or  googeley, 
which  is  one  of  the  familiar  bird-notes  of  India.  But  it  has  a  variety 
of  other  notes,  some  quite  charming  and  soft,  others  less  pleasant, 
particularly  a  raucous  scolding  note  which  'is  as  ugly  as  the  first  is 
melodious. 

The  breeding  season  extends  from  February  until  the  first  week 
in  August,  but  the  majority  of  nests  will  be  found  in  April,  May,  and 
June. 

The  nest  is  placed  in  trees  or  large  bushes,  in  a  fork  usually 
towards  the  top  of  a  tree.  Mango  and  babool  trees  are  most 
commonly  favoured,  though  sheeshum  and  neem  trees  are  also 
often  selected,  and  the  nest  has  even  been  found  in  cactus  clumps. 
It  is  a  shallow,  open  cup,  sometimes  large  and  loosely  constructed, 
sometimes  small  and  compact.  There  is  a  foundation  of  large  twigs 
usually  thorny  in  character,  and  on  this  is  built  the  nest  proper  of 
finer  twigs  and  roots,  with  a  lining  of  grass  roots  and  occasionally  a 
little  wool  or  straw. 

The  normal  clutch  is  four  or  five  eggs  in  the  north,  and  generally 
two  or  three  in  the  south. 

The  eggs  are  typically  somewhat  elongated  ovals,  a  good  deal 
pointed  towards  the  small  end ;  there  is  sometimes  a  slight  gloss. 
In  colour  they  are  very  variable,  though  there  is  always  a  family 
resemblance  between  the  eggs  composing  one  clutch.  There  are 
two  leading  types  of  coloration ;  one  pale  greenish  in  ground-colour 
with  blotches  and  spots  of  light  and  dark  grey  brown,  somewhat 
resembling  the  eggs  of  the  Grey  Shrike  ;  the  other  pale  reddish-white 
or  salmon-colour  with  blotches  of  reddish  and  dark  brown  and 
underlying  markings  of  lilac  and  neutral  tint,  similar  in  type  to  the 
eggs  of  the  Drongos. 

In  size  they  average  about  i*  17  by  0*87  inches. 


THE   BLACK-THROATED   JAY 


THE  BLACK-THROATED  JAY 
GARRULUS  LANCEOLATUS  Vigors 

Description. — Length  13  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Top  and  sides 
of  the  head  black  ;  chin  and  throat  black  with  broad  white  streaks, 
the  black  ending  in  a  patch  of  iron-grey  ;  body  plumage  vinous-grey, 
brighter  towards  the  tail  ;  wings  black,  closely  barred  with  bright 
blue,  a  black  patch  on  the  coverts  being  bordered  outwardly  by  a 
white  patch ;  innermost  flight-feathers  vinous-grey  with  a  black  and 


FIG.  5 — Black-throated  Jay     (£  nat.  size) 

a  white  band  at  the  end  of  each  feather ;  tail  black,  broadly  tipped 
with  white,  all  but  the  outermost  feathers  closely  barred  with  bright 
blue. 

Iris  reddish ;  bill  steely  slate,  darker  at  tip  ;  legs  steely  grey, 
claws  darker. 

The  head  is  conspicuously  crested,  and  the  throat-feathers  are 
long  and  pointed.  The  tail  is  long  and  slightly  graduated. 

Field  Identification. — West  Himalayan  form.  A  noisy  active  bird 
found  in  parties  in  trees.  The  black  crested  head,  with  untidy 
white  streaking  on  the  throat,  and  the  bright  blue  and  black  barring 
on  the  wings  and  tail  contrast  sharply  with  the  nondescript  body 
plumage. 


16  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF   INDIAN    BIRDS 

Distribution. — The  Suliman  Hills ;  the  Western  Himalayas  from 
Hazara  and  Chitral  to  Nepal,  breeding  from  5000  to  8000  feet, 
and  occasionally  higher  to  10,000  feet,  and  in  winter  descending 
to  3500  feet.  A  resident  species  with  no  races. 

The  Himalayan  Jay  (Garrulus  bispecularis),  sometimes  considered 
a  race  of  the  familiar  English  bird,  is  also  resident  throughout  the 
Himalayas.  It  lacks  the  black  head  and  crest  of  the  Black-throated 
Jay,  and  is  brighter,  more  rufous  in  colour  with  a  squarer  tail. 

Loud  harsh  calls  also  draw  attention  to  the  Nutcracker  (Nucifraga 
caryocatactes),  another  Himalayan  species  of  Crow,  which  feeds 
largely  on  pine  seeds.  It  is  dark  chocolate  brown,  spotted  with 
white.  The  white  of  the  outer  tail-feathers  is  conspicuous  in  flight. 

Habits. — The  Black-throated  Jay  is  a  familiar  species  in  the 
outer  ranges  of  the  Western  Himalayas  where  it  comes  freely  into 
the  various  hill  stations.  When  in  pairs  in  the  breeding  season  it  is 
quiet  and  secretive  in  habits  until  disturbed  in  the  neighbourhood 
of  the  nest  when  it  immediately  becomes  excited  and  noisy,  screaming 
and  chattering  at  the  intruder.  At  other  seasons  it  is  found  mostly 
in  parties  of  four  or  five  birds  which  in  winter  often  combine  into 
considerable  flocks,  up  to  twenty  individuals  in  number,  and  these 
sometimes  join  forces  with  the  Himalayan  Jay  and  the  Yellow- 
billed  Blue-Magpie.  These  parties  keep  to  trees,  whether  in  forest 
or  in  the  neighbourhood  of  houses  and  cultivation,  and  their  where- 
abouts is  sooner  or  later  betrayed  by  the  harsh  schack,  similar  to  the 
call  of  the  English  species.  The  food  consists  of  grubs,  caterpillars, 
beetles,  insects,  fruits,  berries,  seeds  and  the  like,  and  some  of  it  is 
taken  on  the  ground. 

From  the  hostility  that  this  Jay  awakens  in  other  species  in  the 
breeding  season  it  is  obvious  that  they  consider  it  a  danger  to  their 
eggs  and  young. 

The  breeding  season  extends  from  the  middle  of  April  to  June, 
most  eggs  being  found  in  May. 

The  nest  is  a  moderately  shallow  cup  built  of  slender  twigs  and 
sticks  and  lined  with  dry  roots  and  fibres,  particularly  the  black 
horsehair-like  rhizoids  of  fungi.  It  is  placed  in  trees  or  thick 
bushes,  never  at  any  very  great  height  from  the  ground.  An  upper 
fork  of  a  small  sapling  affords  a  very  favourite  situation. 

The  clutch  varies  from  three  to  six  eggs,  four  or  five  being  the 
usual  number.  The  eggs  are  somewhat  lengthened  ovals  in  shape, 
and  there  is  little  or  no  gloss.  The  ground-colour  varies  from 
brownish-stone  to  pale  greenish-white,  and  it  is  very  minutely  and 
feebly  freckled  and  mottled  all  over  with  pale  sepia-brown.  There 
are  usually  a  few  dark  brown  hair-like  lines,  more  or  less  zigzag, 
about  the  larger  end. 

The  eggs  measure  about  i- 12  by  0-85  inches. 


THE    CHOUGH  17 

THE    CHOUGH 

PYRRHOCORAX  PYRRHOCORAX  (Linnaeus) 

Description. — Length  17  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  whole  plumage 
glossy  black. 

Iris  dark  brown ;  bill  coral-red ;  legs  dark  coral-red  ;  claws  black. 

Bill  slender  and  curved  and  the  feathers  at  the  base  of  the  bill 
short  and  dense. 

Field  Identification. — Himalayas  and  Baluchistan.  A  very  graceful 
black  Crow  with  a  pleasant  call  which  is  immediately  identified  by 
the  coral-red  bill  and  legs. 

The  slightly  smaller  Alpine  Chough  (Pyrrhocorax  graculus)  with 
shorter  yellow  bill  and  red  legs  has  roughly  the  same  distribution 
in  our  area  as  the  Chough.  The  traveller  in  Lahul  and  Ladakh  will 
find  it  a  bold  scavenger  about  his  camp.  It  is  commonly  stated  that 
these  two  Choughs  are  always  found  in  separate  valleys,  but  this  is 
not  a  fact. 

Distribution. — The  Chough  has  a  very  wide  distribution  from 
Europe  and  Africa  to  China,  mostly  as  a  mountain  bird.  We  are 
concerned  with  the  race  P.  p.  himalayanus,  separated  from  the  typical 
race  on  its  slightly  larger  size,  and  this  is  found  in  North-eastern 
Baluchistan,  Chitral  and  the  Himalayas  from  Hazara  to  Bhutan. 
It  is  a  bird  of  high  elevations,  seldom  breeding  below  8000  feet,  most 
commonly  in  the  zone  from  10,000  to  12,000  feet,  and  sometimes 
up  to  15,000  feet.  It  has  been  recorded  up  to  20,000  feet  in  summer, 
an  elevation  attained  by  very  few  species.  In  winter,  stress  of  weather 
sometimes  drives  it  down  as  low  as  5000  feet  or  even  3000  feet. 

Habits,  etc. — Except  in  Baluchistan,  where  the  Chough  visits  the 
Quetta  Valley  in  winter,  this  delightful  bird  will  only  be  met  by  the 
observer  who  leaves  the  ordinary  Himalayan  stations  and  travels  a 
little  further  into  the  hills.  On  the  outer  ranges  he  will  meet  it  on 
the  Pir  Panjal  and  the  Duala  Dhar,  but  for  the  most  part  he  must 
enter  the  Main  Himalayan  range  before  he  can  expect  to  see  its  buoyant 
flight  and  hear  its  cheerful  call.  Once  in  its  haunts,  he  will  find  the 
bird  common  enough  in  flocks  and  pairs  and  parties  sometimes  in 
the  same  valleys  and  in  the  same  ranges  as  the  Alpine  Chough  and 
sometimes  alone.  Its  local  distribution  is  a  little  erratic.  In  some 
places  it  is  common  ;  in  others  it  is  apparently  absent  and  the  reasons 
for  this  are  not  apparent. 

The  Chough  usually  roosts  and  breeds  in  precipitous  cliffs  though 
in  the  Chumbi  Valley  and  in  Tibet  it  also  uses  the  numerous  holes 
in  the  walls  and  under  the  flat  roofs  of  the  houses  in  the  Tibetan 
villages.  It  feeds  for  the  most  part  on  the  alpine  pastures  where  it 
probes  and  digs  in  the  soil  or  scatters  the  yak  dung  for  the  beetles 

B 


i8  POPULAR   HANDBOOK   OF   INDIAN   BIRDS 

and  their  larvae,  the  wireworms,  the  insects  and  the  small  seeds  which 
form  its  food.  Further  down  it  takes  the  berries  of  various  mountain 
bushes  such  as  the  Ladakh  thorn  (Hippophae  rhamnoides)  and  robs 
the  tillage  of  its  sparse  supplies  of  corn.  As  a  rule  it  is  far  from  shy 
though  it  is  not  the  shameless  scavenger  of  the  camp  like  its  cousin 
the  Alpine  Chough.  On  the  ground  the  loose  thigh-feathers  are 
conspicuous. 

This  Crow  is  an  excellent  flier.  A  party  will  often  obviously  fly 
for  pleasure,  playing  and  circling  in  the  air  currents  in  front  of  the 
cliffs  where  they  live,  or  mounting  high  to  soar  in  the  sky  till  bird 
after  bird  comes  plunging  down  again  with  swift  slanting  flight,  closing 
the  wings  almost  to  the  body. 

The  ordinary  call  is  a  melodious  kew  or  jack  much  like  that  of  the 
Jackdaw  ;  another  note  is  a  high-pitched  squeaky  chee-o-kah  and  the 
alarm  is  a  clear  quoick  or  kor-qmck.  The  voice  carries  far  in  the 
mountain  valleys  and  draws  attention  to  birds  above  almost  out  of  sight. 

Nidification  begins  in  March  and  eggs  are  to  be  found  in  April 
and  May.  The  nest  is  built  in  a  crevice  of  a  precipice  or  a  hole  in 
the  roof  of  a  hill  cave  and  is  usually  quite  inaccessible.  In  Tibetan 
villages  it  may  be  built  in  a  hole  in  a  house.  The  nest  is  made  of  sticks 
and  twigs  and  the  cup  is  lined  with  wool,  though  some  nests  consist 
merely  of  a  pad  of  wool. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs.  They  are  rather  variable 
in  size  and  shape  but  are  typically  a  moderately  elongated  oval,  slightly 
compressed  towards  the  small  end.  The  shell  is  tolerably  fine  and 
has  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  white  with  a  faint  creamy 
tinge  and  the  whole  egg  is  profusely  spotted  and  streaked  with  a 
pale,  somewhat  yellowish  brown  and  a  pale  purplish  grey.  The 
markings  are  most  dense  at  the  broad  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  1-75  by  1-20  inches. 


THE   INDIAN   GREY   TIT 

PARUS  MAJOR  Linnaeus 
(Plate  ii,  Fig.  5,  opposite  page  22) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Head,  neck,  breast 
and  a  broad  line  down  the  centre  of  the  abdomen  glossy  black  ;  a 
conspicuous  white  patch  on  the  cheek  and  a  fainter  one  on  the  nape  ; 
remainder  of  under  parts  white  tinged  with  vinaceous ;  remainder 
of  upper  parts  bluish  ashy-grey,  with  a  white  bar  across  the  wing  ; 
tail  black  and  bluish  ashy-grey,  with  a  large  amount  of  white  on  the 
outer  feathers. 


THE    INDIAN    GREY   TIT  19 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  slaty  plumbeous. 

Field  Identification. — A  typical  Tit ;  bluish-grey  above  and  whitish 
below,  with  black  head,  neck  and  broad  abdominal  stripe,  and  a  white 
cheek-patch.  Purely  arboreal,  generally  single  or  in  pairs. 

Distribution. — The  Great  Tit  (Parus  major)  is  an  interesting  species 
of  wide  range.  It  extends  throughout  the  whole  of  Europe,  North- 
west Africa  and  the  greater  part  of  Asia  to  Japan  and  Southern  China. 
But  as  is  to  be  expected  with  such  a  wide  range  the  species  has  been 
divided  into  a  great  number  of  geographical  races  or  sub-species. 
These  fall  into  two  main  groups  ;  the  European  group  with  green 
backs  and  yellow  under  parts  (exemplified  by  the  familiar  Great  Tit 
of  England),  and  the  Asiatic  group  with  grey  backs  and  whitish  or 
buff  under  parts. 

To  this  latter  group  belong  our  Indian  birds,  and  they  fall  again 
into  several  races,  which  differ  from  each  other  in  the  depth  and 
purity  of  their  colour  and  in  the  relative  amounts  of  black  and  white 
on  the  tail-feathers. 

P.  m.  caschmirensis  occupies  the  Western  Himalayas  from  Kashmir 
to  Gahrwal,  visiting  the  Punjab  plains  in  winter.  P.  m.  nipalensis 
extends  from  Lower  Nepal  through  Behar,  Bengal,  and  the  Duars 
into  Assam  and  Western  Burma.  P.  m.  stupce  is  found  at  Mount 
Aboo,  in  the  Central  Provinces  and  Orissa,  and  southwards  to  Cape 
Comorin,  while  a  fourth  race  P.  m.  ziaratensis  overlaps  from  Afghanistan 
into  parts  of  Baluchistan  and  Trans-Indus  Punjab.  An  insular  race  in 
Ceylon  is  the  true  P.  m.  mahrattarum.  A  resident  species  with  slight 
local  migrations.  This  species  must  not  be  confused  with  the  White- 
winged  Black  Tit  (Parus  nuchalis)  locally  common  in  Rajputana. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Indian  Grey  Tit  is  more  properly  to  be  considered 
a  hill  than  a  plains  bird,  and  each  race  breeds  throughout  the  more 
wooded  ranges  of  its  area  from  a  height  of  about  3500  feet  to  their 
summits,  even  to  9000  or  10,000  feet  when  this  is  possible.  But 
above  6000  feet  it  is  usually  rather  scarce.  While  not  strictly  migratory 
it  wanders  a  good  deal  after  the  breeding  season,  and  then  is  found 
commonly  in  the  plains  area  contiguous  to  the  ranges  on  which  it 
breeds.  It  is*  a  bird  of  the  more  open  types  of  forest,  and  while  really 
arboreal  wanders  freely  into  bushes  and  scrub-jungle,  and  frequently 
visits  the  ground  in  search  of  food. 

Although  often  found  in  small  parties  or  included  in  the  large 
mixed  hunting  parties  of  small  insectivorous  birds  this  Tit  is  more 
usually  found  singly  and  in  pairs.  When  feeding  it  is  very  methodical, 
carefully  examining  the  branches  and  twigs  for  small  insects  and  theii 
caterpillars  and  eggs,  peering  into  every  nook  and  cranny  and  bunch 
of  leaves,  and  when  necessary  for  the  purpose  indulging  in  a  variety 
of  acrobatic  postures  for  which  its  sturdy  build  and  strong  legs  are 
admirably  adapted.  At  times  it  holds  some  article  of  food  between 


20  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

its  feet  on  a  branch  and  hammers  at  it  with  pickaxe  blows  of  the 
beak,  and  the  noise  thus  made  is  frequently  mistaken  for  the  work 
of  a  small  Woodpecker.  It  is  a  cheerful  bird  both  in  demeanour  and 
note,  and  the  loud  whistle  tsee  tsee  tsee  is  always  a  cheery  welcome 
sound.  With  the  spring  and  the  approach  of  the  breeding  season  this 
is  supplemented  by  a  number  of  louder  and  clearer  calls,  of  which  the 
most  familiar  is  zwink  zwink.  When  disturbed  in  the  nest  the  bird 
endeavours  to  frighten  away  the  intruder  by  hissing  and  spitting  like 
a  snake. 

It  is  interesting  to  note  that  the  young  bird  in  the  juvenile  plumage 
is  greenish  in  colour  on  the  back  and  yellower  underneath  than  the 
adult,  a  clear  indication  of  the  relationship  between  the  two  main 
types  of  Parus  major  and  the  fact  that  the  Western  birds  must  be 
considered  the  older  and  original  type. 

This  Tit  appears  to  be  double-brooded  wherever  found.  In  the 
Himalayas  the  breeding  season  is  from  the  end  of  March  to  July : 
while  in  the  Peninsula  the  breeding  season  is  more  extended,  com- 
mencing in  February  and  lasting  until  November,  but  it  varies  in 
different  localities,  and  the  majority  everywhere  lay  before  July. 

The  nest  is  a  large,  shapeless  mass  of  downy  fur,  cattle  hair, 
feathers,  and  wool,  with  a  foundation  of  grass  roots  and  moss,  the 
whole  forming  a  soft  pad  with  a  saucer-like  hollow  for  the  eggs. 
The  fur  is  often  obtained  from  the  droppings  of  carnivorse.  It  is 
placed  in  a  hole  of  some  kind,  whether  in  a  wall,  bank,  tree  or  rock, 
and  sometimes  in  the  old  nest-hole  of  a  Woodpecker  or  Barbet.  On 
one  occasion  I  found  two  nests  built  side  by  side  touching  under 
the  coping-stone  of  a  wall,  with  one  and  four  eggs  respectively,  both 
apparently  the  property  of  the  same  bird.  Similar  cases  have  been 
reported  of  the  Great  and  Blue  Tits  in  England.  Hume  has  recorded 
two  instances  in  which  the  nest  was  built  in  the  open  on  a  branch  of 
a  tree,  but  this  is  very  unusual. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  four  to  six  eggs.  In  shape  they 
are  a  broad  oval,  somewhat  elongated  and  pointed  towards  the  small 
end,  and  have  a  faint  gloss.  In  colour  they  are  white,  speckled  and 
spotted  with  reddish-brown  and  pale  purplish,  these  markings  often 
tending  to  coalesce  into  a  zone  round  the  broad  end. 

They  measure  about  0*70  by  0-54  inches. 


THE    GREEN-BACKED    TIT  21 


THE  GREEN-BACKED  TIT 

PARUS  MONTICOLUS  Vigors 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Tfye  whole  head, 
neck,  breast,  and  a  broad  line  down  the  centre  of  the  abdomen 
glossy  black :  a  conspicuous  white  patch  on  the  cheek  and  a  fainter 
one  on  the  nape ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  deep  yellow ;  back 
greenish-yellow  ;  rump  slaty-blue  ;  wings  mixed  slaty-blue  and  black 
with  two  white  bars  ;  tail  black  and  slaty-blue,  edged  and  tipped 
with  white. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  plumbeous-slate. 

Field  Identification. — Himalayan  form  ;  the  common  Tit  of  all 
Himalayan  hill  stations.  A  typical  Tit  with  white  cheek-patch, 
black  head  and  breast  and  abdominal  band  ;  distinguished  from  the 
Grey  Tit  by  the  brighter  coloration,  greenish  back  instead  of  grey, 
yellow  under  parts  instead  of  greyish- white. 

Distribution. — The  Green-backed  Tit  is  found  throughout  the 
Himalayas,  and  also  further  eastwards  through  Manipur,  Chittagong 
and  the  Chin  Hills  to  Yunnan  and  Formosa.  Its  normal  breeding 
zone  lies  between  5000  and  8000  feet,  but  a  few  may  be  met  with 
up  to  10,000  and  even  12,000  feet ;  during  the  winter  numbers 
descend  to  the  foot-hills  below  4000  and  a  few  even  to  the  fringe 
of  the  plains  beyond  them.  Apart  from  this  seasonal  altitudinal 
movement  it  is  a  resident  species.  All  birds  in  our  area  belong  to 
the  typical  race. 

Habits,  etc. — This  bird  resembles  other  Tits  in  being  a  forest- 
loving  bird  though  it  wanders  a  good  deal  and  may  be  found  in  any 
type  of  country  in  the  hills,  cultivation  or  scrub -covered  hill-side. 
While  properly  speaking  arboreal  it  freely  descends  to  undergrowth 
and  to  the  ground.  It  is  occasionally  found  in  small  flocks  and 
parties,  but  is  more  usually  found  singly  or  in  pairs,  and  one  or 
more  of  these  birds  will  invariably  be  found  attached  to  the  mixed 
hunting  parties  of  small  birds  which  are  such  a  familiar  feature  of 
the  Himalayan  forests. 

The  food  consists  chiefly  of  insects  in  their  various  stages  and 
also  of  fruits,  and  it  is  less  of  a  seed  eater  and  less  omnivorous  than 
the  Grey  Tit. 

Although  without  a  proper  song,  this  bird  has  a  number  of  not 
unmusical  calls,  which  are  amongst  the  most  penetrating  and  familiar 
of  the  bird  sounds  in  a  Himalayan  station.  One  note  is  described 
as  a  very  loud  four-syllable  whistle  which  may  be  written  ti-ti-tee-ti> 
the  third  syllable  much  prolonged.  Its  ordinary  spring  call  at  the 
commencement  of  the  breeding  season  is  a  mewing  whistle  pheeow 

B2 


22  POPULAR   HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

or  pawee,  while  other  calls  may  be  syllabilised  as  peeweet  or  tweentwee 
and  sit-here  and  teacher.  But  it  must  be  remembered  that  most  of 
the  Tit  family  have  a  variety  of  very  similar  calls,  hard  to  distinguish 
from  one  another.  This  species  is  very  fond  of  water,  bathing  more 
regularly  than  most  other  Tits. 

Nidification  begins  in  the  latter  half  of  March  and  most  clutches 
of  eggs  will  be  found  in  April,  though  fresh  eggs  may  be  still  found 
until  June  ;  it  is  possible  that  some  birds  are  double-brooded. 

The  nest  is  a  shapeless  mass,  with  a  hollow  on  top  for  the  eggs, 
of  soft  downy  fur  and  feathers  with  more  or  less  moss  by  way  of 
foundation.  It  is  placed  in  a  hole,  either  in  a  tree,  wall,  bamboo  or 
even  in  a  bank,  though  a  hole  in  a  wall  is  usually  chosen. 

The  clutch  consists  normally  of  six  to  eight  eggs,  though  some- 
times as  few  as  four  eggs  are  laid. 

The  eggs  are  moderately  broad  ovals,  some  almost  symmetrical, 
others  slightly  pointed  at  one  end.  In  colour  they  are  white,  almost 
without  gloss,  spotted,  blotched,  and  speckled  with  different  shades 
of  red  and  brown ;  the  markings  vary  in  quantity  and  intensity  but 
tend  to  be  most  numerous  towards  the  large  end.  The  eggs  of  this 
species  in  a  series  will  be  found  to  be  rather  longer  and  more  slender 
and  more  richly  marked  than  those  of  the  Grey  Tit. 

In  size  they  average  about  0-72  by  0-52  inches. 


THE   YELLOW-CHEEKED    TIT 

MACHLOLOPHUS  XANTHOGENYS  (Vigors) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Crown  and  a  long 
pointed  crest,  a  line  through  the  eye  and  a  broad  band  from  the 
chin  to  the  vent  glossy  black ;  a  line  over  each  eye  to  a  patch  on 
the  hind  neck,  the  cheeks  and  the  sides  of  the  body  canary-yellow ; 
upper  parts  yellowish-green  ;  wings  black,  the  small  coverts  spotted 
with  pale  yellow-white,  the  flight-feathers  edged  and  variegated  with 
blue-grey  and  white ;  tail  black,  washed  with  blue-grey,  the  tips  of 
all  feathers  and  the  outer  edge  of  the  outer  feather  white. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  dark  slaty-blue. 

Field  Identification. — A  typical  greenish  and  yellow  Tit  with  a 
pointed  black  crest  and  a  heavy  black  band  down  the  centre  of  the 
lower  parts ;  distinguished  from  the  Green-backed  Tit  by  the  crest 
and  the  yellow  cheeks.  Strictly  arboreal  and  confined  to  well-wooded 
country,  particularly  hills. 

Distribution. — This  species  is  confined  to  India  and  is  divided 
into  three  races.  The  typical  form  occurs  in  the  Western  Himalayas 
from  Murree  to  Eastern  Nepal,  breeding  in  a  zone  between  5000  and 


PLATE  II 


i.  Spotted  Munia. 
headed  Tit. 
about  ^  nat.  size.) 


2.  Red  Avadavat.      3.  Red-breasted  Flycatcher.     4.  Red- 
5.  Indian  Grey  Tit.      6.  Himalayan  Tree-Creeper.     (All 


\Fact  ft.  aa 


THE    YELLOW-CHEEKED    TIT  23 

7000  feet,  though  its  distribution  is  somewhat  capricious.  M.  x. 
aplonotus  is  found  across  the  centre  of  the  Peninsula  from  Mount 
Aboo  and  Mahabaleshwar  to  Parasnath  Hill  and  the  Krishna  River. 
M.  x.  travancoreensis,  a  larger  and  duller  bird,  is  confined  to  the 
Western  Ghats  and  the  neighbouring  wooded  areas  from  the  South 
Konkan  to  the  Asambo  Hills.  These  two  races  are  found  at  air 
elevations  and  differ  from  the  typical  race  in  having  a  shorter  crest, 
the  spots  on  the  wing-coverts  white  instead  of  yellow,  and  the  yellow 
parts  of  the  plumage  paler.  In  these  two  races  the  females  have 
the  black  band  on  the  lower  plumage  replaced  with  olive  green,  and 
in  M.  x.  travancoreensis  some  females  also  have  the  crest  olive-green. 


f     ' 
FIG.  6— Yellow-cheeked  Tit     (g  nat.  size) 

Habits. — The  Yellow-cheeked  Tit  is  a  very  sociable  bird.  Except 
when  actually  breeding  it  is  found  in  small  parties  which  are  apt 
to  attach  themselves  to  the  mixed  hunting  parties  that  are  commonly 
found  in  the  woods  which  they  frequent.  It  is  arboreal  in  habits, 
spending  its  life  in  an  incessant  hunt  in  the  trees  for  the  small  insects 
and  their  eggs  and  larvae  and  the  various  seeds  and  fruits  which 
form  its  food.  Even  the  largest  caterpillars  are  attacked  and  torn 
into  pieces.  Like  many  other  birds  it  catches  flying  ants  and  feeds 
at  the  flowers  of  the  cotton-tree.  The  call-notes  are  loud  and  joyous  in 
tone,  being  very  distinct  from  and  more  musical  than  those  of  other  Tits. 
Those  of  the  Himalayan  race  may  be  syllabilised  as  tyuji  tyuja  and  again 
as  teetweenh  twit-teetweenh,  while  the  breeding  call  is  a  loud  towit  towit. 
There  is  also  a  low  jarring  note  and  a  chatter  like  that  of  the  Grey  Tit. 


24  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

The  Himalayan  race  breeds  from  April  to  June.  The  Continental 
races  evidently  breed  a  good  deal  later,  from  July  to  August  or  even 
September  and  October,  though  in  the  north  of  the  Peninsula  some 
pairs  start  in  April. 

The  nest  is  built  in  holes  in  trees  at  any  height  up  to  about  20 
feet.  The  hole  may  be  a  small  natural  cavity  or  one  cut  out  by  the 
birds  themselves,  a  large  hollow  in  a  bough  or  the  old  nesting-hole 
of  a  Barbet  or  Woodpecker.  The  nest  is  the  usual  shapeless  pad 
of  the  family,  composed  of  a  mass  of  wool  and  hair  on  a  foundation 
of  moss  and  other  miscellaneous  materials.  It  varies  in  size  according 
to  the  circumstances  of  the  hole. 

The  usual  clutch  consists  of  four  or  five  eggs.  These  vary  in 
shape  from  elongated  to  rather  broad  ovals  and  have  little  or  no 
gloss.  The  ground  is  white  and  they  are  moderately  thickly  speckled 
or  spotted  all  over.  Some  of  the  spots  are  large  and  blotchy,  and 
in  some  eggs  the  markings  tend  to  collect  at  one  end. 

The  eggs  measure  about  0-70  by  0-52  inches. 


THE    CRESTED    BLACK    TIT 

LOPHOPHANES  MELANOLOPHUS  (Vigors) 

Description. — Length  4  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  whole  head 
including  a  long  pointed  crest,  neck  and  breast  black,  except  for  a 
large  white  patch  on  the  sides  of  the  face  and  another  on  the  nape  ; 
upper  plumage  iron-grey,  the  exposed  parts  of  the  wings  and  tail 
paler ;  two  lines  of  rufous  spots  across  the  wing,  and  the  inner 
flight-feathers  slightly  tipped  with  white  ;  lower  plumage  from  the 
breast  downwards  iron-grey  ;  patches  on  the  flanks  and  under  the 
wings  and  tail  chestnut. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  dark  bluish-grey. 

Field  Identification. — Purely  West  Himalayan  form,  common  at 
all  hill  stations.  A  small  dark  Tit  with  an  erect-pointed  crest  and 
conspicuous  white  patches  on  nape  and  sides  of  the  face.  Usually 
found  in  flocks  and  in  hunting  parties  in  forest.  The  two  lines  of 
rufous  spots  across  the  wing  provide  the  readiest  means  of  separation 
from  another  larger  and  darker  species  (Lophophanes  rufonuchalis) 
which  is  locally  common  throughout  the  whole  length  of  the  Himalayas. 

Distribution. — The  Crested  Black  Tit  is  found  from  the  Sufed  Koh 
and  Chitral  along  the  Himalayas  to  Garhwal  and  Naini  Tal.  It  breeds 
in  a  somewhat  high  zone  between  6000  and  12,000  feet  but  in  winter 
descends  also  down  to  about  4000  feet,  and  even  occasionally  lower, 
for  both  the  above  species  L.  melanolophus  and  L.  rufonuchalis  were 


THE    CRESTED    BLACK    TIT  25 

'found  common  at  Rawal  Pindi  in  January  1907.  It  is  very  common 
about  Gulmurg,  the  Galis,  Dharmsala,  Kulu,  and  Simla. 

Habits,  etc. — This  Tit  is  most  markedly  a  forest  bird  and  every 
variety  of  evergreen  tree  growth  is  frequented  by  it.  It  is  always 
busy  in  the  search  for  food,  preferably  high  in  some  moss-grown  oak 
or  lordly  pine,  and  the  soft  chee-chee  note  which  forms  a  running 
accompaniment  to  all  its  activities  will  be  heard  long  before  its  tiny 
owner  is  seen  in  the  branches  above  one's  head.  Occasionally  it  feeds 
alone,  but  more  usually  two  or  three  join  together  in  a  free-and-easy 
bond  of  companionship,  while  in  winter  these  parties  in  turn  join 
together  in  regular  flocks  numbering  often  as  many  as  fifty  birds. 
These  flocks  are  frequently  accompanied 
by  Gold-crests,  and  in  the  area  where  this 
Tit  occurs  it  is  a  leading  spirit  in  all  the 
mixed  hunting  parties. 

It  is  as  active  and  acrobatic  in  its  move- 
ments as  the  Red-headed  Tit,  and  both  of 
these  birds  easily  surpass  the  heavier  Grey 
and  Green-backed  Tits  in  this  respect.  The 
Crested  Black  Tit  is  seldom  seen  at  rest, 
but  when  the  first  stirrings  of  the  spring 
turn  his  thoughts  towards  a  mate,  he  occa- 
sionally ceases  from  the  hunt  for  food  and 
betaking  himself  to  some  lofty  twig  he 
perches  there  and  proclaims  his  ardour  to  FlG  7_j-jea(i  Of  Crested 
the  world  with  a  loud  clear  call,  want  you,  Black  Tit  (\\  nat.  size) 
need  you,  want  you,  need  you,  a  sentiment 

that  frequently  finds  an  echo  in  the  human  heart  below.  There  are 
a  variety  of  other  cheerful  call-notes  ;  a  favourite  song-call  is  chak- 
cha-bink  or  kink-ka-jou  and  also  a  loud  plaintive  tyu-tyu  slowly  re- 
peated. The  song  is  a  whirring,  reeling  trill  of  the  grasshopper  type. 

The  food  consists  chiefly  of  insects . 

The  breeding  season  commences  in  March  and  the  majority  of  eggs 
are  laid  early  in  April.  Nests,  however,  may  be  found  until  June, 
and  it  is  probable  that  there  are  sometimes  two  broods  in  the  season. 

The  nest  is  invariably  built  in  a  hole,  either  of  a  tree,  rock,  or 
wall,  whether  close  to  the  ground  or  30  feet  up.  In  the  hole  a 
substantial  foundation  of  moss  obtained  from  adjacent  tree-trunks 
is  first  collected  so  as  to  close  in  the  cavity  to  a  suitable  size  ;  on 
this  is  built  the  nest  proper  which  consists  of  a  mass,  large  and 
shapeless  or  small  and  closely  felted,  of  wool  and  fur,  occasionally 
mingled  with  a  little  vegetable  down  and  moss. 

The  number  of  eggs  is  very  variable  from  four  to  ten,  but  the 
usual  clutch  consists  of  six  to  eight  eggs. 

The  eggs  are  moderately  broad  ovals  though  somewhat  longer  in 


26  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

proportion  than  those  of  most  Tits  ;  the  ground-colour  is  white  with 
a  faint  gloss,  blotched,  spotted,  and  speckled  with  bright  brownish- 
red,  the  markings  often  tending  to  form  a  dense  confluent  cap  or 
zone  about  the  larger  end  of  the  egg. 

They  measure  about  0-61  by  0-47  inches. 


THE    RED-HEADED    TIT 
/EGITHALISCUS  CONCINNUS  (Gould) 

(Plate  ii,  Fig.  4,  opposite  page  22) 

Description. — Length  including  tail  4  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Whole 
top  of  the  head  chestnut ;  sides  of  the  head  and  a  large  round  patch 
on  the  throat  deep  black  ;  a  broad  eyebrow,  a  broad  moustachial 
streak,  and  the  chin  white  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  ferruginous. 
Upper  plumage  and  wings  and  tail  bluish-grey,  the  concealed  portions 
of  the  quill-feathers  dark  brown,  and  the  outer  tail-feathers  tipped 
with  white.  The  tail  is  long  and  graduated. 

Iris  pale  yellow  ;  bill  black,  gape  fleshy  ;  legs  buffy-yellow. 

Field  Identification. — A  diminutive  Himalayan  species  invariably 
found  in  flocks  in  trees  and  bushes  except  when  breeding  ;  very 
small,  with  a  longish  tail  and  most  conspicuous  head  markings  of  bright 
chestnut,  black  and  white ;  no  abdominal  band.  The  flocks  utter 
a  low,  harsh  churring  note. 

Distribution. — The  Red-headed  Tit  extends  from  Chitral  and  at 
xCherat  all  through  the  Himalayas  across  the  various  ranges  of  Assam 
and  Northern  Burma  into  China.  There  are  several  races  in  the 
eastern  portion  of  its  range,  but  in  India  we  are  only  concerned  with 
two.  JE.  c.  iredalei  is  found  from  Chitral  eastwards  to  Sikkim,  where  it 
is  replaced  by  the  smaller  and  more  deeply-coloured  JE.  c.  rubricapittus. 
The  former  breeds  at  elevations  between  5000  and  8,000  feet,  occurring 
in  smaller  numbers  up  to  12,000  feet  and  as  low  as  3000  feet  in  winter  ; 
the  latter,  however,  does  not  go  much  above  7000  feet.  A  resident 
species. 

The  Sultan-Tit  (Melanochlora  sultanea)  is  found  in  small  parties 
in  trees  at  low  elevations  in  the  Eastern  Himalayas,  Assam  and  Burma. 
It  is  larger  than  the  true  Tits,  heavy  in  build  and  glossy  blackish  save 
for  a  bright  yellow  abdomen  and  crown  with  a  loose  crest. 

Habits,  etc. — This  Tit  is  purely  a  hill  species,  and  in  the  main 
occupies  a  middle  zone  intermediate  between  the  foot-hills  and  the 
higher  ranges.  It  is  more  strictly  sedentary  than  most  of  the  other 
members  of  the  family,  only  an  occasional  party  descending  in  winter 
a  thousand  feet  or  so  lower  than  the  normal  zone.  It  never  visits 


THE    RED-HEADED    TIT  27 

the  ground,  but  is  equally  at  home  in  the  branches  of  high  trees  in 
thick  forest  or  amongst  the  indigo  and  berberis  bushes  of  open  grass- 
clad  hill-sides. 

The  leading  characteristic  of  this  species  is  its  fussy  sociability. 
Throughout  the  year  it  is  found  in  small  flocks,  and  though  while 
actually  breeding  individual  pairs  leave  the  company  of  their  fellows, 
flocks  may  be  met  with  throughout  the  breeding  season,  consisting 
either  of  late  breeders  who  have  not  yet  settled  their  domestic 
arrangements,  or  early  family  parties  of  young  birds  strong  on  the 
wing.  As  they  feed  they  utter  incessantly  a  soft  gentle  tcheck  or  a 
harsh  trree,  both  notes  alternating.  And  even  their  own  society  is 
not  sufficient  for  these  sociable  little  birds  ;  the  parties  attach  them- 
selves to  the  mixed  bands  of  Creepers,  Willow- Wrens,  Flycatchers, 
and  other  species  of  Tit  which  wander  through  the  hill  forests, 
suddenly  filling  with  busy  activity  a  glen  or  group  of  trees  that  a 
moment  before  was  empty  of  bird-life.  In  these  hunting  parties 
the  Red-headed  Tit  takes  a  leading  and  conspicuous  share ;  it 
is  very  active  and  very  fussy,  and  at  the  least  excitement  its  harsh 
churring  note  of  defiance  and  of  warning  is  uttered  and  taken  up  by  a 
dozen  throats  ;  while  its  acrobatic  feats  surpass  those  of  all  the  other 
species,  except  perhaps  the  Crested  Black  Tit.  It  investigates  every 
leaf  and  twig,  now  circling  adroitly  round  its  perch,  now  hanging 
upside  down — any  angle,  any  position,  all  are  the  same — inaction 
only  is  abhorrent  to  it.  The  parties  are  strangely  trusting ;  one 
has  only  to  stand  still  and  the  little  gymnasts  will  climb  and 
chatter  in  a  bush  a  yard  away,  feeding  with  no  apparent  recognition 
of  the  stranger  at  their  gates  ;  then  a  sudden  movement  on  his  part 
or  a  note  of  warning  from  a  bird  and  the  flock  will  vanish  as  quickly 
as  it  came,  like  a  little  flight  of  arrows  sped  in  relays  by  a  fairy  archer 
through  the  bushes.  They  seldom  venture  into  the  open,  and  then 
only  for  short  flights  between  two  clumps  of  trees.  The  flight  is 
weak  and  practically  never  sustained  for  more  than  a  few  yards  at 
a  time,  though  when  disturbed  from  the  nest  this  bird  can  fly  down- 
hill as  fast  as  any  Warbler  for  a  short  distance.  The  food  consists 
almost  entirely  of  insects  in  their  various  stages,  but  small  seeds  and 
fruits  are  also  probably  eaten. 

The  breeding  season  commences  about  the  beginning  of  March 
and  continues  throughout  April  and  May.  The  nest  is  placed  in  a 
variety  of  situations  ranging  from  a  tangle  of  matted  grass  near  the 
ground  to  the  bough  of  a  deodar  40  feet  up.  But  the  majority  will 
be  found  in  stunted  hill-oaks  and  bushes  within  easy  reach,  though 
seldom  conspicuous.  The  nests  are  most  beautiful  structures,  very 
closely  resembling  and  recalling  the  familiar  "  bottle  "  nests  of  the 
Long-tailed  Tit  in  England.  They  are  large,  upright,  egg-shaped 
structures  of  moss  and  lichen,  studded  and  bound  together  with 


28  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF   INDIAN    BIRDS 

cotton-down,  cobwebs  and  similar  substances,  some  4^  inches  in 
height  and  3^  inches  in  diameter,  with  a  small  entrance  high  on 
one  side.  The  walls  are  thick  and  closely  woven,  and  there  is  a 
dense  lining  of  feathers  mixed  sometimes  with  seed- down,  the  whole 
forming  as  cosy  a  home  as  it  is  possible  to  imagine. 

The  eggs  vary  in  number  from  three  to  eight,  but  the  usual  clutch 
consists  of  five  or  six. 

The  tiny  eggs  are  broad  ovals,  sometimes  almost  globular,  and 
sometimes  somewhat  pointed  at  one  end.  In  colour  they  are  pinkish 
or  creamy  white,  almost  without  gloss,  and  round  the  broad  end 
there  is  a  conspicuous  zone  of  minute  reddish  and  purple  spots  almost 
confluent  and  clouding  into  one  another. 

They  measure  about  0-56  by  0-45  inches. 


THE  CHESTNUT-BELLIED   NUTHATCH 

SlTTA  CASTANEA   LeSSOn 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Male  :  Upper  plumage  slaty-blue, 
lower  plumage  uniform  dark  chestnut-bay,  except  for  the  following 
markings  :  a  black  streak  through  the  eye  from  the  nostril  to  the 
shoulder ;  a  white  patch  from  the  chin  below  the  eye  to  the  ear- 
coverts  ;  middle  tail-feathers  ashy-blue,  the  next  two  black,  with 
ashy-blue  tips  and  edges,  the  remainder  black  with  white  markings  ; 
under  tail-coverts  mixed  chestnut  and  ashy ;  under  surface  of  the 
wings  black  with  a  white  patch  only  visible  from  below. 

Female  :  Under  parts  paler  chestnut,  and  the  white  face  markings 
less  clearly  defined. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  black,  slaty-grey  at  base  ;  legs  dark  greenish- 
plumbeous. 

The  hind  toe  is  greatly  developed  and  the  inner  front  toe  dwarfed. 
The  beak  is  long,  stout  and  pointed. 

Field  Identification. — A  small  bird,  slaty-blue  above,  chestnut-bay 
below,  with  a  heavy  pointed  beak.  Purely  arboreal,  running  like  a 
mouse  about  the  bark  and  twigs  of  trees,  frequently  upside-down. 
Most  Nuthatches  appear  very  similar  in  the  field.  Of  common 
species  the  Himalayan  (Sitta  himalayensis)  and  Kashmir  (Sitta 
cashmirensis)  Nuthatches  are  much  paler,  more  fulvous  below,  the 
former  differing  from  all  Indian  species  in  a  white  patch  on  the 
central  tail-feathers.  A  more  conspicuous  species  the  White-cheeked 
Nuthatch  (Sitta  leucopsis)  is  found  in  the  higher  tree  zone  of  the 
Sufed  Koh  and  Western  Himalayas.  This  is  dark  blue  above  with 
a  black  crown  and  creamy-white  below  with  rich  chestnut  on  the 


THE     CHESTNUT-BELLIED    NUTHATCH  29 

flanks  and  has  a  very  harsh  loud  note  rapidly  repeated.  Its  habitat 
in  rocky  nullahs  amply  identifies  the  large  Rock-Nuthatch  (S.  iranica) 
of  Baluchistan,  remarkable  for  its  globular  mud  nest  on  a  rock. 

Distribution. — The  Chestnut-bellied  Nuthatch  has  a  somewhat 
wide  distribution  throughout  India,  Assam,  and  Burma  to  Siam. 
It  is  divided  into  races,  of  which  we  are  concerned  with  four. 
Except  for  the  Vizagapatam  Hills  where  S.  c.  prateri  is  found,  the 
typical  race  inhabits  the  plains  of  India  from  Ferozepore,  Ambala, 
and  Khandesh  on  the  west  to  Calcutta  on  the  east.  It  is  also  found 
in  the  Wynaad  and  about  the  base  of  the  Nilgiris.  An  east  (S.  c. 
cinnamoventris)  and  a  West  Himalayan  race  (S.  c.  almorce)  have 


FIG.  8  —  Chestnut-bellied  Nuthatch    (£  nat.  size) 


heavier  bills  and  differ  in  slight  details  of  coloration.     A  resident 
species. 

Habits,  etc.  —  The  habits  of  this  species  are  typical  of  all  the 
Nuthatches.  They  share  with  Woodpeckers  and  Tree  -  Creepers 
the  ability  to  climb  about  the  trunks  and  branches  of  trees  in 
order  to  search  the  crevices  of  the  bark  for  the  insects  and  larvae 
that  live  there  —  secure  from  the  attentions  of  most  insect-feeding 
birds  ;  but  the  Nuthatches  are  by  far  the  most  skilful  climbers  of 
the  three  classes  ;  they  do  not  need  the  support  of  their  taik  against 
the  bark,  and  they  are  infinitely  more  agile  and  lively  in  consequence, 
able  to  climb  in  any  direction  —  upwards,  downwards,  upside-down  or 
sideways,  and  they  are  also  able  to  perch  on  twigs  in  the  normal 
passerine  manner.  They  are  very  restless  and  hard-working.  This 
species  is  purely  arboreal  and  is  found  singly  or  in  parties,  often 
in  company  with  mixed  hunting  parties,  and  keeps  largely  to  the 
tops  of  the  highest  or  oldest  trees  ;  it  is  more  often  heard  than 


30  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

seen,  as  in  addition  to  its  sharp  note  the  sound  of  hammering  on 
bark  and  on  seeds  and  nuts,  as  it  breaks  into  their  kernels,  betrays 
its  whereabouts. 

The  main  breeding  season  of  the  Himalayan  races  is  in  April  and 
May,  and  of  the  typical  race  in  February  and  March.  All  races 
nest  in  holes  and  hollows  of  trees,  and  the  hill  birds  also  use  holes 
in  walls.  A  Nuthatch's  nest  may  always  be  recognised  by  the  habit 
of  plastering  the  entrance  and  sides  of  the  hole  with  mud  and  clay 
to  adapt  it  to  the  needs  of  the  bird,  such  plaster- work  sometimes 
being  of  considerable  extent.  In  holes  of  trees  the  nest  is  usually 
scanty,  consisting  largely  of  flaky  material  like  slips  of  bark  or  the 
seed-cases  of  trees,  but  in  the  case  of  nests  built  in  holes  in  walls  the 
nest  is  a  much  more  substantial  affair  including  a  moss  foundation 
and  a  lining  of  fur.  The  nest  site  is  often  close  to  the  ground,  and 
even  when  robbed  is  frequently  repaired  and  used  again  immediately. 

The  clutch  varies  from  two  to  six  eggs.  The  eggs  greatly  resemble 
those  of  Tits  ;  they  are  regular  broad  ovals,  fragile  and  fine  in  texture 
with  very  little  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  pure  white  and  the  mark- 
ings consist  of  small  spots  and  speckles  of  brick-red  and  reddish-lilac. 

In  size  they  average  about  0-70  by  0-55  inches. 

The  word  Nuthatch  is  believed  to  be  a  corruption  of  an  older 
name  Nuthack. 


THE  VELVET-FRONTED   NUTHATCH 

SITTA  FRONTALIS  (Swainson) 
(Frontispiece,  fig.  4) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Male  :  A  broad  band  across  the 
forehead  and  a  narrow  streak  above  the  eye  to  the  nape  velvet-black  ; 
the  whole  upper  plumage  and  wing-coverts  blue  ;  wing  black,  the 
individual  feathers  more  or  less  edged  with  blue  ;  middle  tail-feathers 
blue,  the  others  blackish  edged  and  tipped  with  blue ;  ear-coverts 
lilac  ;  chin  and  throat  whitish  shading  into  the  greyish-lilac  of  the 
rest  of  the  under  parts. 

The  female  is  similar  to  the  male  but  lacks  the  narrow  black 
eye-streak. 

Iris  lemon-yellow ;  bill  coral-red,  tipped  above  with  brownish  ; 
mouth  coral-red  ;  legs  brown  with  an  orange  tinge. 

The  hind  toe  is  greatly  developed  and  the  bill  narrow  and  pointed. 
The  body  has  the  same  smell  as  a  Woodpecker. 

Field  Identification. — Outer  Himalayas  and  Peninsular  India.  A 
small  bird  blue  above  and  greyish-lilac  below  with  a  heavy  velvet- 
black  band  across  the  forehead  and  a  coral-red  bill.  Arboreal  in 


THE   VELVET-FRONTED    NUTHATCH  31 

habits,  running  like  a  mouse  about  the  trunks  and  branches  of  trees 
in  hill  forest  areas. 

Distribution. — The  Velvet-fronted  Nuthatch  has  two  races  in  our 
area.  The  typical  race  is  found  in  Ceylon  and  in  the  Indian  Peninsula 
south  of  a  line  from  Khandesh,  the  Central  Provinces  and  Chota 
Nagpur,  being  largely  confined  to  the  forests  of  the  Eastern  and 
Western  Ghats.  It  is  particularly  common  in  the  Nilgiris.  A  slightly 
smaller  race  S.  f.  corallina  is  found  along  the  submontane  valleys 
of  the  Himalayas  up  to  about  3800  feet  from  Dehra  Dun  eastwards, 
in  the  hills  and  plains  of  Assam  up  to  about  4000  feet  and  throughout 
the  whole  of  Burma  up  to  about  5500  feet.  This  species  is  also  found 
through  the  Malay  Peninsula,  Sumatra  and  Borneo  to  Java.  A  strictly 
resident  species. 

Habits. — The  habits  of  this  species  are  similar  to  those  of  other 
Nuthatches  and  like  them  it  is  often  found  in  the  mixed  hunting 
parties.  The  Velvet-fronted  Nuthatch  is  one  of  the  most  active  birds 
imaginable,  for  ever  on  the  move,  nimbly  running  up  and  down  and 
round  the  trunks  of  trees,  climbing  the  moss-covered  branches, 
descending  head-foremost  and  running  upside  down  along  the  lower 
surface  of  a  bough.  It  does  not,  as  a  rule,  remain  long  in  one  tree 
but  darts  quickly  on  from  one  to  another,  followed  by  its  companions 
— for  they  are  usually  found  in  pairs  or  parties  of  four  or  five  individuals 
— and  alights  with  a  trilling  little  note  which  although  comparatively 
weak  is  audible  at  a  considerable  distance.  This  note  which  is  variously 
described  as  a  sharp  chick  chick  chick,  rapidly  repeated,  or  a  loud 
cheeping  whistle  is  constantly  uttered  and  is  one  of  the  latest  diurnal 
bird-calls  to  be  heard  in  the  forest,  frequently  well  after  dusk.  The 
male  also  utters  a  short  little  warble. 

This  Nuthatch  may  be  found  on  occasion  in  most  types  of  forest 
but  is  essentially  a  bird  of  the  evergreen  forest,  though  it  has  a  decided 
preference  for  the  edges  of  clearings  and  light  patches.  Dead  trees 
are  a  favourite  hunting  ground.  It  may  often  be  seen  running  along 
fallen  logs  or  over  small  dead  wood  lying  on  the  ground  and  sometimes 
it  even  forages  in  brushwood.  Usually,  however,  it  will  be  seen  in 
trees  and  no  tree  is  too  high  for  it,  so  that  the  ear  will  often  announce 
its  presence  in  the  head  of  some  lofty  giant  where  the  eye  has  difficulty 
in  picking  up  its  tiny  shape. 

The  food  consists  exclusively  of  insects. 

The  main  breeding  season  gf  the  Himalayan  race  is  in  May  and 
June,  but  in  South  India  and  Ceylon  the  season  is  from  the  middle 
of  February  until  May.  The  nest  is  built  in  a  hole  in  a  tree  at  any 
height  from  the  ground  up  to  about  40  feet  but  most  nests  will  be 
found  below  20  feet.  The  hole  chosen  is  usually  a  small  natural 
one,  but  the  deserted  nest-holes  of  Woodpeckers  and  Barbets  are  also 
used  ;  and  where  necessary  the  entrance  hole  is  modified  with  plaster- 


32  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

work  after  the  manner  of  other  Nuthatches.  The  nest  is  a  substantial 
pad  of  moss,  green  or  dry,  which  is  lined  with  fur  and  includes  a 
good  many  feathers,  both  amongst  the  moss  and  in  the  lining. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  to  five  eggs,  which  are  very  similar 
to  those  of  the  Tits.  They  are  broad  ovals,  rather  compressed  towards 
the  small  end,  fine  and  compact  in  texture  but  devoid  of  gloss.  The 
ground-colour  is  white  and  the  markings  consist  of  blotches,  speckles 
and  spots  of  brick-dust  red  and  somewhat  pale  purple,  sometimes 
gathered  in  a  sort  of  irregular  zone  round  the  broad  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  0*65  by  0*50  inches. 


THE  WHITE-THROATED  LAUGHING-THRUSH 

GARRULAX  ALBOGULARIS  (Gould) 
(Plate  v,  Fig.  i,  opposite  page  88) 

Description. — Length  12  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
greyish  olive-brown,  the  forehead  fulvous,  and  a  black  mark  in  front 
of  and  below  the  eye ;  throat  and  upper  breast  pure  white,  sharply 
defined  and  bordered  broadly  with  the  colour  of  the  upper  parts 
which  gradually  shades  off  into  the  bright  rufous  of  the  rest  of  the 
lower  plumage  ;  four  outer  pairs  of  tail-feathers  broadly  tipped  with 
white. 

The  tail  is  rounded  and  full. 

Iris  bluish-grey ;  bill  horny-black  ;  mouth  yellow ;  legs  slaty- 
plumbeous. 

Field  Identification. — Himalayan  form.  Medium-sized  olive-grey 
bird  with  rufous  belly,  and  conspicuous  shining  white  throat  patch. 
Found  in  noisy  parties  in  heavy  jungle  ;  presence  first  revealed  by  a 
curious  hissing  note. 

Distribution. — Throughout  the  Himalayas  from  Hazara  to  Sikkim, 
and  in  South-west  China.  The  Himalayan  birds  are  divided  into 
two  races.  G.  a.  whistleri  is  the  better  known  form  and  extends  from 
the  Hazara  country  to  about  Eastern  Nepal,  being  particularly  common 
at  Mussoorie  and  is  very  numerous  round  Naini  Tal  but  rather  less  so 
about  Simla.  The  typical  form  is  more  brightly  coloured  with  more 
rufous  in  the  plumage  and  is  slightly  smaller.  It  is  found  in  Nepal  and 
Sikkim  and  in  North  Cachar.  Both  forms  are  birds  of  middle 
elevations,  occurring  from  about  5000  to  9000  feet.  A  resident 
species. 

The  closely  related  White-crested  Laughing-Thrush  (Garrulax 
leucolophus)  common  along  the  Himalayas  from  Garhwal  eastwards 
is  easily  recognised  by  its  white-crested  head  and  black  band  through 


THE    WHITE-THROATED    LAUGHING-THRUSH         33 

the  eye.  In  the  Eastern  Himalayas  the  Black-gorgetted  Laughing- 
Thrush  (Garrulax  pectoralis),  an  olive-brown  and  fulvous  bird  with  a 
marked  black  gorget  band,  is  remarkable  in  having  a  smaller  counter- 
part the  Necklaced  Laughing-Thrush  (Garrulax  moniliger).  Both  are 
common  in  the  same  localities,  often  joining  in  a  mixed  flock.  The 
only  member  of  this  genus  found  in  Southern  India  is  the  Wynaad 
Laughing-Thrush  (Garrulax  delesserti\  which  is  peculiar  to  the  hill 
ranges  from  North  Kanara  to  Travancore. 

Habits,  etc. — This  large  Laughing-Thrush  is  a  very  sedentary 
species  and  does  not  move  much  from  its  chosen  haunts,  which 
consist  of  heavy  forest  in  the  deeper  and  more  secluded  ravines. 
In  such  places  it  lives  in  large  parties  which  do  not  entirely  break 
up  even  in  the  breeding  season.  They  feed  a  good  deal  on  the 
ground,  turning  up  the  dead  leaves  in  search  of  insects,  but  they  are 
perhaps  more  often  seen  up  in  the  trees,  searching  the  crevices  of 
the  bark  and  tearing  off  the  lumps  of  moss  which  grow  on  most  of 
the  oKler  trees  in  the  areas  that  they  frequent. 

While  thus  feeding  they  keep'  up  a  low  murmuring  note,  teh. 
tehy  irresistibly  reminiscent  of  a  flock  of  Tits,  though  of  course 
louder.  At  the  least  provocation  this  is  changed  into  a  discordant 
concert  of  noisy  screaming,  hissing  and  chattering,  some  of  their 
calls  being  of  a  peculiarly  eerie  timbre  and  suited  to  the  gloomy 
surroundings  in  which  they  are  uttered.  In  fact  there  is  something 
peculiarly  ghostly  about  these  birds,  as  a  flock  of  them  move  about 
in  the  shady  recesses  of  the  forest,  their  white  gorgets  shining 
conspicuously  as  erratically  moving  spots  of  light  and  their  weird 
voices  breaking  in  upon  the  silence.  Though  not  particularly  shy 
they  soon  vanish  if  disturbed,  slipping  away  one  by  one  up  the  trees 
from  branch  to  branch,  and  so  on  up  the  hill-side  with  some  rapidity. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  the  beginning  of  April  to  the 
end  of  June,  some  birds  nesting  until  August.  The  nest  is  a  large 
wide  cup,  not  as  a  rule  very  deep,  and  is  made  of  coarse  grass, 
creepers,  dead  leaves,  moss,  and  roots,  with  usually  a  lining  of  fern 
and  moss  roots.  It  is  built  in  a  bush  or  small  tree,  usually  about  3 
to  10  feet  from  the  ground,  and  the  usual  situation  is  at  the  end  of 
a  bough  or  between  two  or  three  upright  shoots  on  low,  horizontal 
branches. 

The  clutch  varies  from  two  to  four  eggs,  but  the  normal  number 
is  three. 

The  eggs  are  long  and  fairly  pointed  ovals  with  a  high  gloss 
They  vary  from  a  deep  dull  blue  to  a  deep  intense  greenish-blue, 
and  are  darker  than  the  eggs  of  all  other  Babblers  and  Laughing- 
Thrushes.  They  are  without  markings. 

In  size  they  average  about  1-22  by  0-83  inches. 


34  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

THE  RED-HEADED   LAUGHING-THRUSH 

TROCHALOPTERON  ERYTHROCEPHALUM  (Vigors) 

Description. — Length  n  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  surface  of 
head  chestnut ;  sides  of  head  and  throat  black,  mixed  below  and 
behind  the  eye  with  chestnut ;  lower  plumage  pale  fulvous,  lightly 
scaled  with  black  on  the  throat  and  breast ;  upper  plumage  olive- 
brown  scaled  with  black  about  the  shoulders  ;  rump  slaty-grey  ;  wings 
and  tail  ashy,  the  feathers  brightly  edged  with  golden  olive-yellow  ; 
a  bright  ferruginous  bar  across  the  wing  and  behind  it  a  patch  of 
golden-red. 

Iris  pale  brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  pale  brown. 

The  tail  is  rather  long  and  full. 

Field  Identification. — Himalayan  form.  The  chestnut  crown, 
spotted  neck  and  gilded  wings  and  tail  are  not  conspicuous  in  the 
forest  where  the  bird  appears  nondescript  in  colour  ,with  a  ver/  dark 
head  and  neck.  Very  shy,  found  in  thick  undergrowth  in  parties 
which  utter  a  peculiar  murmuring  note. 

Mention  may  here  be  made  of  the  Rufous-necked  Laughing- 
Thrush  (Dryonastes  ruficollis),  common  along  the  base  of  the  Eastern 
Himalayas,  a  dusky-looking  bird  with  chestnut  patches  on  the  sides 
of  the  neck  and  under  the  tail.  The  Rufous-chinned  Laughing- 
Thrush  (lanthocincla  rufogularis),  found  in  the  lower  Himalayan 
ranges,  is  rich  olive-brown  and  grey  squamated  with  black. 

Distribution. — This  fine  Laughing-Thrush  is  widely  distributed 
along  the  Himalayas  and  in  the  various  mountain  ranges  which 
extend  from  them  down  to  the  south  of  Tenasserim.  It  is  divided 
into  a  number  of  geographical  races,  which  in  several  cases  are  very 
distinct.  Two  of  these  concern  us.  The  typical  race  is  common 
in  the  Western  Himalayas  from  Chamba  on  the  west  into  Nepal. 
It  breeds  from  about  6000  tc  9000  feet,  and  in  winter  works  down- 
hill to  about  4000  feet.  Eastwards  of  Nepal  to  the  Daphla  and 
Miri  Hills  in  Assam  it  is  replaced  by  T.  e.  nigrimentum,  in  which 
the  ear-coverts  are  black  with  pinkish-white  edges  ;  this  race  is 
found  at  similar  elevations  to  the  other.  Apart  from  altitudinal 
movements  both  birds  are  residents. 

Habits,  etc.  —  The  Red  -  headed  Laughing  -  Thrush  is  a  very 
common  bird  in  well-forested  areas  where  there  is  plenty  of  under- 
growth. It  is,  however,  very  shy  and  secretive  and  is  therefore 
little  known  to  the  majority  of  people,  though  once  its  various 
notes  have  been  learnt  evidence  of  its  abundance  is  surprising. 
In  the  breeding  season  a  loud,  clear,  double  whistle,  pheeou-pheeou, 
a  familiar  sound  in  all  the  thicker  forests,  is  its  ordinary  call.  This 
is  easily  imitated  and  the  bird  readily  called  up.  This  ceases  in 


THE   RED-HEADED    LAUGHING-THRUSH  35 

winter,  but  the  presence  of  a  party  in  the  undergrowth  is  revealed 
as  one  passes  along  a  path  by  a  soft  murmur,  curious  but 
distinctly  pleasant.  If  a  nest  is  examined  the  pair  that  own 
it  work  backwards  and  forwards  in  the  bushes  a  few  yards  away 
but  always  evading  observation,  and  as  they  fuss  and  flirt  their  long 
tails,  bowing,  bobbing,  jerking  from  side  to  side,  now  on  one  bough, 
now  on  another,  they  keep  up  an  incessant  squeaky  murmuring, 
chicky-cree-cree-cree-cree,  or  a  harsh,  low  chatter,  queer-que^  queer-quee, 
very  difficult  to  describe.  Rarely  the  birds  come  out  into  the  open, 
but  when  they  do  so  it  is  only  to  flutter  and  skim  back  into  the  nearest 
cover  at  the  slightest  excuse. 

The  nesting  season  is  extended  from  May  to  August.  The 
breeding  zone  is  that  of  the  Oaks,  Q.  dilatata  and  Q.  semicarpifolia, 
or  say  between  8000  and  9000  feet.  The  nest  is  a  large  massive  cup 
composed  largely  of  dead  leaves  bound  round  with  grass  and  bents, 
fine  twigs  and  long  strips  of  fibrous  bark  till  a  very  solid  wall  has 
been  made  ;  moss  and  maidenhair  enter  also  in  the  construction  and 
the  egg  cavity  is  lined  with  fine  grass  and  fine  roots. 

The  clutch  usually  consists  of  three  eggs.  These  are  very  long 
ovals,  fine  and  compact  in  texture  with  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground- 
colour is  delicate,  pale  greenish-blue,  with  a  few  spots,  streaks,  and 
blotches  of  brownish-red,  mostly  towards  the  broad  end. 

The  eggs  measure  about  1-2  by  0-82  inches. 


THE  VARIEGATED   LAUGHING-THRUSH 

TROCHALOPTERON  VARIEGATUM  (Vigors) 
(Plate  hi,  Fig.  i,  opposite  page  44) 

Description. — Length  n  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Forehead  at  base 
of  beak  fulvous  shading  into  the  ashy  olive-brown  of  the  whole  upper 
plumage  ;  sides  of  the  face  black,  broken  with  a  certain  amount  of 
white  behind  the  eye  ;  chin  and  throat  fulvous  with  a  black  mark 
down  the  centre ;  lower  plumage  similar  to  the  upper  but  paler  and 
gradually  changing  into  bright  tawny-buff  posteriorly.  Wings  brightly 
variegated  with  black,  white  and  grey,  and  bright  golden-yellow  or  red. 

Tail  rather  long  and  full ;  the  middle  four  pairs  of  tail-feathers 
black  for  three-quarters  of  their  length,  then  ashy-grey  or  ashy-yellow 
and  tipped  with  white ;  the  other  feathers  ashy  on  the  inner  webs, 
golden  or  reddish  yellow  on  the  outer  and  tipped  with  white. 

Iris  sage  green  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  pale  fleshy-brown,  claws  dusky. 

Field  Identification. — Himalayan  form,  found  in  forest  areas ;  a 
dull-coloured  bird,  chiefly  conspicuous  for  black  and  white  markings 
on  the  face.  Shy  and  elusive,  but  rather  noisy  ;  generally  in  parties. 


36  POPULAR   HANDBOOK   OF   INDIAN    BIRDS 

Distribution. — The  Variegated  Laughing-Thrush  is  found  on  the 
Samana  and  in  the  Himalayas  from  Chitral  and  Gilgit  to  Nepal.  It 
is  divided  into  two  races.  The  meeting  ground  of  these  two  races  is 
about  Chamba  and  Dharmsala.  The  Eastern  and  typical  race,  common 
in  the  Simla  Hills,  breeds  mainly  at  higher  elevations  than  the  Red- 
headed Laughing-Thrush.  The  silver  fir,  birch  and  rhododendron 
forests  at  from  9000  to  11,000  feet  constitute  the  breeding  area,  but 
the  two  species  sometimes  overlap  in  the  breeding  season  in  the  zone 
of  the  high  level  oak.  In  this  race  the  outer  webs  of  the  wing  and  tail- 
feathers  are  very  variable  in  colour,  ranging  from  bright  golden-yellow 
to  crimson.  In  the  Western  form,  T.  v.  simile,  which  is  very  common 
in  the  Galis  and  about  Murree,  these  outer  webs  are  pure  french- 
grey  and  do  not  vary.  This  is  a  forest-loving  bird,  of  high  elevations, 
breeding  in  a  zone  between  6000  and  11,000  feet ;  it  is  not  a  migrant, 
but  in  winter  the  majority  move  somewhat  downhill  and  may  then 
be  found  at  any  height  from  4000  feet  upwards. 

Habits,  etc. — Steep  hill-sides  covered  with  dense  undergrowth 
are  the  haunts  of  this  bird,  and  preferably  those  slopes  where  the 
undergrowth  is  further  shaded  and  rendered  secluded  by  the  presence 
of  large  trees.  In  such  situations  the  Variegated  Laughing-Thrush 
is  found  in  small  parties  or  even  in  flocks  numbering  about  twenty 
individuals,  whose  presence  is  betrayed  by  their  noisy  behaviour. 
The  call-note  of  the  species  is  a  loud  clear  whistle  pitt-zve-weer, 
frequently  repeated  and  ascending  in  scale,  but  in  addition  to  this 
it  has  a  variety  of  squeaky  notes  in  a  chattering  slightly  querulous 
tone  ;  a  curious  sort  of  drumming  note  is  also  occasionally  uttered. 

The  ordinary  demeanour  of  the  bird  is  fairly  bold,  but  as  soon  as 
it  has  reason  to  suspect  the  presence  of  danger  it  becomes  very  shy 
and  active,  skulking  in  the  thickest  of  the  undergrowth,  or  hopping 
rapidly  and  silently  up  the  branches  of  some  tree,  from  the  top  of 
which  it  plunges  into  further  cover.  It  appears  to  visit  the  ground 
but  seldom,  though  often  in  the  undergrowth  close  to  it.  In  Lahul, 
where  cover  is  scarce,  the  Western  form  simile  which  occurs  there 
is  found  in  the  willow  groves  taking  shelter  in  the  thick-pollarded 
heads  of  the  trees.  The  food  consists  both  of  fruits  and  berries  and 
of  insects. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  April  to  July,  most  eggs  being 
laid  in  May  and  June.  The  nest  is  a  large,  massive  and  rather  deep 
cup  composed  of  coarse  grass,  dry  stems  and  fibres,  mixed  with  a 
few  dry  leaves  ;  it  is  lined  with  fine  grass,  roots,  or  pine-needles.  It 
is  placed  in  bush  undergrowth  or  more  usually  up  in  some  tree, 
preferably  a  fir,  often  at  a  considerable  height  from  the  ground. 
Both  sexes  incubate  the  eggs. 

The  clutch  consists  normally  of  two  or  three  eggs  but  rarely  four 
or  five  are  laid  ;  in  shape  they  are  rather  long  ovals,  with  a  fine  texture 


THE   NILGIRI    LAUGHING-THRUSH  37 

and  slight  gloss.    The  ground-colour  is  a  pale  rather  dingy  greenish- 
blue,  and  the  markings  consist  of  blotches,  spots,  and  freckles  of 
liver-red  and  various  shades  of  brown  and  purple  ;    the  markings 
are  generally  collected  towards  the  larger  end. 
They  measure  about  i-n  by  0-78  inches. 


THE  NILGIRI   LAUGHING-THRUSH 

TROCHALOPTERON  CACHINNANS  (Jerdon) 
(Plate  iv,  Fig.  4,  opposite  page  66) 

Description. — Length  9  inches.  Sexes  alike.  A  broad  white  line 
over  the  eye,  bordered  above  by  a  narrow  black  line  and  below  by  a 
black  line  through  the  eye  ;  forehead  and  chin  also  black  ;  whole 
upper  plumage,  wings,  and  tail  olive-brown,  the  crown  narrowly 
scaled  with  black,  and  the  back  of  the  head  suffused  with  ashy; 
whole  under  surface  bright  rufous,  duller  on  the  flanks  and 
posteriorly. 

Iris  red  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Field  Identification. — Only  in  Nilgiris  ;  a  dull-coloured  bird,  olive- 
brown  above,  rufous  below,  with  black  and  white  markings  on  the 
face  ;  noisy  and  shy,  in  parties  in  heavy  undergrowth. 

Distribution. — Confined  to  the  Nilgiris  at  elevations  over  4500  feet. 
A  resident  species.  A  very  similar  species  (Trochalopteron  jerdoni)  is 
represented  by  three  hill  races  which  are  common  respectively  in  the 
Brahmagherries  (T.  j.  jerdoni),  North  Travancore  (T.  j.  fairbanki)  and 
South  Travancore  (T.j.  meridionale). 

Habits,  etc. — This  Laughing-Thrush  is  extremely  common  in  the 
Nilgiris  at  all  the  higher  elevations,  as  for  instance  at  Coonoor  and 
Kotagherry.  It  is  found,  like  most  of  the  genus,  in  parties  which  live 
in  dense  undergrowth  and  spend  a  large  portion  of  their  time  on  the 
ground  searching  for  insects  and  fallen  berries.  It  is  particularly 
partial  to  the  berries  of  the  Brazil  or  Peruvian  cherry,  which  has 
been  introduced  in  the  Nilgiris  in  recent  times.  This  bird  merits 
more  than  most  of  the  family  the  title  of  Laughing-Thrush  ;  there 
is  something  peculiarly  human  about  the  tones  of  its  voice,  and  its 
call  is  certainly  a  laugh — a  most  "  maniacal  laugh  "  according  to 
Hume.  In  demeanour  the  bird  is  very  shy  and  evades  observation. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  February  to  June. 

The  nest  is  a  deep  cup  composed  of  fine  twigs,  moss,  grass,  dead 
leaves,  and  similar  substances,  and  it  is  lined  with  moss  roots,  fibres, 
fine  grass,  wool,  and  fur.  It  is  placed  in  the  fork  of  a  bush  or  tree 
at  any  height  from  the  ground  up  to  about  12  feet. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  or  three  eggs.  They  are  moderately 
broad  ovals,  somewhat  pointed  towards  the  small  end,  and  of  fine 

C2 


38  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

texture  with  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  a  delicate  pale  blue 
which  is  speckled  and  blotched,  rather  sparingly,  with  reddish-  or 
pinkish-brown,  a  few  eggs  having  also  blackish-brown  spots  and  hair- 
lines, often  rather  cloudy  at  the  edges. 

The  egg  measures  about  i-o  by  0-75  inches. 


THE  STREAKED  LAUGHING-THRUSH 

TROCHALOPTERON  LINEATUM  (Vigors) 

(Plate  iii,  Fig.  5,  opposite  page  44) 

Description. — Length  8  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Hoary-grey,  more 
or  less  streaked  throughout  with  reddish-brown,  the  shafts  of  the 
feathers  being  particularly  conspicuous  ;  ear-coverts,  wings  and  tail 
bright  reddish-brown,  the  tail  with  obsolete  rayed  markings,  and  each 
feather  tipped  with  greyish-white,  defined  interiorly  by  a  black 
line. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  dusky,  base  of  lower  mandible  steely-horn  ;  feet 
fleshy-brown,  claws  livid-horny. 

Field  Identification. — Familiar  garden  bird  in  the  Himalayas ;  a 
smallish  bird  with  a  broad  floppy  tail ;  grey  and  chestnut  in  colour, 
with  pale  streaking,  appearing  dark  brown  at  any  distance  ;  skulks  like 
a  rat  amongst  low  bush  growth ;  movements  jerky  ;  utters  a  variety 
of  squeaky  notes.  It  must  not  be  confused  with  the  Striated  Laughing- 
Thrush  (Grammoptila  striata),  a  bird  of  very  similar  appearance  but 
larger  and  more  arboreal,  found  throughout  the  Himalayas  from  Simla 
eastwards. 

Distribution. — The  Streaked  Laughing-Thrush  is  found  from  the 
mountains  of  North  Baluchistan  to  Chitral  and  Gilgit  and  thence 
along  the  whole  of  the  Himalayas  to  Bhutan.  Within  this  range  it 
has  been  divided  into  five  geographical  races.  Starting  from  the 
west,  the  Baluchistan  bird,  common  at  Ziarat,  is  known  as  T.  L 
ziaratensis.  In  Gilgit,  Chitral  and  Northern  Kashmir  the  race  is 
termed  T.  L  gilgit,  and  this  in  turn  gives  place  in  Southern  Kashmir 
to  the  typical  race  T.  I.  lineatum,  which  extends  through  the  Punjab 
Himalayas  to  Garhwal  and  Kumaon.  The  Nepal  and  Sikkim  birds 
are  known  as  T.  L  setafer,  while  the  Bhutan  bird  has  been  separated 
as  T.  1.  imbricatum.  These  races  merely  differ  amongst  themselves 
in  degree  of  coloration  both  of  the  feathers  and  of  their  shafts.  A 
resident  species. 

Habits,  etc. — This  familiar  bird  breeds  throughout  the  hill  ranges 
that  it  inhabits  between  about  5000  and  10,000  feet,  occasionally 
ascending  even  a  little  higher.  While  not  a  migrant  in  any  sense  of 


THE    STREAKED    LAUGHING-THRUSH  39 

the  word,  it  tends  to  drift  downhill  during  the  winter  months  and  then 
may  be  met  with  down  to  about  3000  feet  and  sometimes  lower,  as 
at  Kohat.  It  may  be  described  as  a  bird  of  the  undergrowth,  and 
provided  that  it  has  tangles  of  rank  grass,  thick  bushes,  or  rocks 
combined  with  herbage  in  which  to  thread  its  secretive  way,  it  is 
indifferent  whether  these  are  situated  on  open  hill-sides  or  in  the 
midst  of  heavy  forest. 

About  the  hill  stations  of  the  Western  Himalayas,  from  the 
Galis  and  Kashmir  across  to  Naini  Tal  and  Almora,  it  is  one  of 
the  most  familiar  of  the  station  birds,  living  in  the  gardens  and 
attracting  attention  by  its  chattering  antics,  and  along  the  forest 
roads  coming  to  notice  by  shuffling  across  the  roads  and  up  the 
bank  sides  in  front  of  passers-by ;  in  Lahul  it  even  intrudes  into 
the  courtyards  of  houses.  Further  east  it  is  much  scarcer,  and  on 
its  status  there  would  not  merit  inclusion  in  this  work. 

This  dull-coloured  Laughing-Thrush  lives  both  in  pairs  and  in 
small  parties  of  four  or  five  individuals.  The  greater  part  of  its  life 
is  lived  within  a  height  of  5  or  6  feet  from  the  ground  and  it  is 
practically  never  away  from  thick  cover.  It  shuffles  freely  about  on 
the  ground  after  the  manner  of  a  large  Hedge- Sparrow,  working 
amongst  the  undergrowth  and  climbing  up  into  the  bushes ; 
occasionally  it  is  inspired  with  ambition  and  climbs  from  the  bushes 
jnto  thick  and  handy  trees  ;  but  so  ingrained  is  its  parasitic  devotion 
to  Mother  Earth  that  if  it  desires  to  proceed  from  one  tree  to 
another  it  will  not  fly  across  the  open,  parachuting  on  open  wings  to 
its  foot  like  other  Laughing-Thrushes  ;  but  it  hastily  drops  from  the 
first  tree  to  the  ground  and  thence  works  "  in  rushes,  taking  cover  " 
to  the  base  of  the  second  tree  and  climbs  it  afresh.  A  party  moving 
along  or  up  and  down  the  hill-side  has  the  same  tactics ;  one  by  one 
the  individuals  composing  it  "  dribble  "  from  cover  to  cover,  now 
hopping  rapidly  along  the  ground  for  a  yard  or  two,  then  feebly 
fluttering  for  another  stretch.  An  extended  flight  must  be  virtually 
unknown  to  the  bird.  Yet  with  all  these  skulking  ways  and  excess 
of  caution  it  is  in  no  sense  shy  until  molested,  and  one  may  pass 
along  a  hill-path  a  yard  or  two  away  from  an  individual  sitting  on 
the  hill-side  and  it  will  not  bother  to  leave.  In  a  bush  it  dips  and 
bows,  turning  this  way  and  that  and  incessantly  flirting  the  heavy 
tail,  as  it  utters  a  series  of  harsh  squeaky  notes  chit-chit-chitrr,  chit-chit- 
chitrr,  chicker-chicker  or  witti-kitti-cree,  or  a  soft  murmuring  churring 
note  crrer-r. 

The  call-note  is  a  loud,  clear  whistle  pitt-wee-are  or  titty-titty-we- 
are  much  like  that  of  other  Laughing-Thrushes.  This  miscellaneous 
assortment  of  chattering  squeaks  together  with  the  rustling  of  leaves 
usually  indicate  the  presence  of  a  party  in  cover  where  they  are  quite 
invisible ;  and  these  are  amongst  the  most  familiar  bird  sounds  of 


40  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

the  Western  hill  stations.  The  food  is  the  usual  mixture  of  insects, 
seeds,  and  small  fruits  common  to  most  of  the  family. 

The  breeding  season  is  very  extended,  and  the  bird  is  probably 
double-brooded.  Eggs  have  been  taken  in  every  month  from  March 
to  September,  but  most  nests  will  be  found  in  May  and  June.  On 
the  nest  the  bird  sits  very  close,  almost  allowing  itself  to  be  caught. 

The  nest  is  a  large,  solid  structure  of  dry  grass,  stems  of 
herbaceous  plants,  fibrous  shreds  of  bark,  dead  leaves,  and  similar 
materials.  It  is  nearly  circular,  with  a  deep  cup-like  cavity  jn  the 
centre,  and  this  is  neatly  lined  with  fine  grass  roots,  pine-needles  or 
fine  grass.  It  is  always  well  concealed,  and  is  placed  in  a  thick 
branch  of  a  tree,  preferably  perhaps  a  deodar,  in  a  thick  bush,  or 
in  heavy  herbage  on  a  steep  bank ;  but  it  is  very  seldom  higher  than 
5  or  6  feet  from  the  ground  and  usually  lower  than  that.  On  one 
occasion  in  Simla  I  found  a  nest  owing  to  the  strange  choice  of  the 
birds  in  lining  material.  There  was  a  coir  doormat  at  the  dining- 
/oom  door  leading  into  the  verandah  ;  and  as  we  sat  at  lunch  the 
birds  kept  coming  and  tearing  fibres  out  of  the  mat  in  spite  of  the 
fact  that  the  servants  waiting  on  us  were  continuously  passing 
backwards  and  forwards  through  the  door. 

Two  to  four  eggs  are  laid,  but  the  normal  clutch  consists  of  three 
eggs. 

The  eggs  are  regular  and  moderately  broad  ovals,'  with  a  slight 
gloss  and  a  very  smooth  satiny  texture.  In  colour  they  are  a  perfectly 
spotless,  delicate,  pale  greenish-blue,  of  the  tint  usually  known  as 
"  Hedge-Sparrow  blue." 

In  size  they  average  about  i-oo  by  0-73  inches. 

The  nests  of  this  species  are  often  selected  for  the  eggs  of  the 
Indian  Cuckoo  (Cuculus  micropterus)  and  occasionally  the  Pied  Crested 
Cuckoo  ( Clamator  jacobinus) . 


THE    JUNGLE    BABBLER 

TURDOIDES   SOMERVILLEI    (Sykes) 
(Plate  x,  Fig.  5,  opposite  page  198) 

Descriptwn.—Length  10  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  whole  upper 
plumage  dull  earth-brown  marked  with  paler  and  darker  tints  of 
the  same  ;  tail  broad  and  full,  slightly  tipped  with  white  and  faintly 
cross-rayed  ;  lower  plumage  paler,  mixed  fulvous  and  ashy. 

Iris  pale  yellowish  white  ;  bill  flesh-coloured,  gape  yellowish ; 
feet  fleshy-white  or  yellowish-white. 

Field  Identification. — Found  in  noisy  squeaking  parties,  usually 
on  or  close  to  the  ground ;  a  moderate-sized  dirty-looking  brown 


THE  JUNGLE   BABBLER  41 

bird  with  a  pale  yellowish  eye  and  a  broad  longish  tail ;  all  plumage 
very  loose  and  untidy.  One  of  the  best -known  birds  of  India. 

Distribution. — The  Jungle  Babbler  is  found  throughout  the  whole 
of  the  Peninsula  of  India  from  the  Salt  Range  and  Kohat  in  the 
north-west  along  the  foot  of  the  Himalayas  to  about  the  valley  of 
the  Brahmaputra  in  the  north-east.  It  is  divided  into  five  races. 

T.  s.  sindianus  is  a  particularly  pale  race  found  in  the  Punjab  and 
Sind  down  to  Mount  Aboo.  T.  s.  terricolor  is  found  throughout 
north  and  east  India  within  a  line  drawn  roughly  through  Meerut, 
Agra,  Saugor,  and  Hyderabad  to  the  Godavari  delta.  The  typical 
race  with  a  rufous  tail  is  confined  to  a  strip  of  the  western  coast 
from  Bombay  and  Matheran  to  Kanara,  below  that  grading  into  the 
dark  T.  s.  malabaricus  of  Cochin  and  Travancore.  A  paler  and 
greyer  race,  T.  s.  ortentalis,  occupies  the  rest  of  Southern  India.  A 
strictly  resident  species. 

Habits,  etc. — In  the  Jungle  Babbler  we  have  one  of  the  few 
Indian  birds  which  possesses  a  recognised  popular  name  in  both 
English  and  Hindustani,  in  both  cases  due  to  the  social  habits  of 
the  species.  The  vernacular  name  is  "  Sathbhai,"  the  Seven  Brethren, 
while  in  English  for  some  reason  (possibly  their  loquacity),  the  birds 
change  their  gender  and  become  the  "  Seven  Sisters."  It  is  often 
wrongly  assumed  in  consequence  that  the  parties  always  consist  of 
seven  birds  ;  but  "  sath  "  is  only  a  reflection  of  the  phrase  "  panch 
sath  "  (5  or  7),  an  approximate  phrase  like  "  half  a  dozen." 

This  bird  is  found  throughout  the  plains  and  the  hill  ranges  up 
to  about  4000  feet  in  the  north  and  higher  in  the  south,  but  it  is 
usually  scarce  both  in  thick  forest  and  in  wet  marshy  country.  In 
the  more  desert  portions  of  Sind  and  Rajputana  it  does  not  occur. 
With  these  exceptions  it  is  found  in  all  types  of  country,  and 
apparently  having  a  decided  preference  for  the  neighbourhood  of 
man  it  is  a  common  bird  in  gardens  both  in  towns  and  out  in  the 
mofussil. 

As  indicated  above,  the  Jungle  Babbler  is  an  eminently  gregarious 
species,  even  to  the  extent  that  the  parties  in  which  it  goes  about  do 
not  break  up  in  the  breeding  season.  A  sitting  bird  has  only  to  be 
disturbed  from  its  nest  and  the  outcry  that  it  invariably  makes  at 
once  brings  to  the  spot  the  other  members  of  its  clan.  For  in  sorrow 
and  in  joy  these  Babblers  are  not  divided ;  nor  are  they  quiet. 
Although  trees  are  a  necessity  for  them,  for  when  disturbed  they 
immediately  fly  up  into  the  branches,  they  feed  for  the  most  part  on 
the  ground,  turning  over  dead  leaves  with  incessant  industry,  all  the 
while  moving  with  a  clumsy,  hopping  gait.  As  they  do  so  they  keep 
up  a  muttered  concert  of  low  remarks  which  at  the  slightest  excite- 
ment break  into  a  chorus  of  noisy,  squeaking  calls  that  aptly  express 
their  hysterical  temperaments.  Yet  they  are  brave  birds  also,  and 


42  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

at*  once  rally  to  the  support  of  any  one  of  their  number  that  is  in 
difficulties,  attacking  his  assailant.  Although  not  in  this  respect 
quite  as  strong  as  the  Large  Grey  Babbler  (Argya  malcolmi)  they 
generally  succeed  in  rescuing  any  of  their  party  that  falls  into  the 
clutches  of  the  smaller  hawks,  who  indeed  treat  them  with  respect. 
The  captured  bird  grasps  the  assailant  with  its  big,  strong  feet,  and 
the  remainder  of  the  party  fall  on  the  latter  pell-mell  in  a  noisy, 
struggling  mass  till  he  is  glad  to  let  go  his  promised  meal  and  decamp 
with  the  best  grace  possible.  The  flight  is  clumsy  and  ill-sustained, 
this  species  having  the  family  habit  of  flying  one  by  one  for  short 
distances  from  cover  to  cover. 

The  breeding  season  commences  at  the  end  of  March  and  continues 
into  September.  The  majority  of  nests,  however,  contain  fresh  eggs 
in  the  first  week  after  the  setting-in  of  the  rains,  which  varies  according 
to  locality  and  season  from  ist  June  to  the  i5th  July. 

The  nest  is  built  in  thick  bushes  or  small  trees  at  almost  any 
height  from  the  ground,  though  most  will  be  found  4  to  10  feet  up. 
Thorn  trees  are  commonly  selected,  and  the  nest  is  usually  not 
particularly  well  concealed.  It  is  a  fairly  deep  cup,  sometimes  small 
and  compact,  but  more  usually  rather  loosely  put  together,  of  grass 
stems  and  roots.  The  lining  consists  of  finer  roots  and  occasionally 
of  horse-hair. 

The  full  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs. 

The  eggs  are  usually  rather  broad  ovals,  somewhat  compressed 
at  one  end,  of  fine  smooth  texture  with  a  high  gloss.  The  colour  is 
"  Hedge-Sparrow  blue,"  varying  from  a  pale  shade  to  a  deep  intense 
colour  in  different  eggs.  There  are  no  markings. 

The  egg  measures  about  i-oi  by  0*78  inches. 

This  bird  is  a  favourite  foster-parent  for  the  Pied  Crested  Cuckoo 
(Clamator  jacobinus)  and  the  Common  Hawk  Cuckoo  (Hierococcyx 
varius),  and  it  is  difficult  to  distinguish  between  the  eggs  of  host 
and  parasite,  so  close  is  the  resemblance. 


THE  WHITE-HEADED  BABBLER 
TURDOIDES  STRIATUS  (Dumont) 

Description. — Length  9  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  surface  of 
head  and  neck  dingy  greyish-white ;  upper  plumage  ashy-brown, 
streaked  on  the  back  with  brown  and  white ;  wings  and  terminal 
half  of  the  broad  full  tail  dark  brown ;  ear-coverts  brown ;  chin, 
throat,  and  breast  dark  brown,  the  feathers  edged  with  grey ; 
remainder  of  lower  plumage  brown,  fulvous  down  the  centre  of  the 
abdomen. 


THE    WHITE-HEADED   BABBLER  43 

Iris  creamy-white  ;  bill,  eye-patch,  and  legs  dead  white  with  a 
yellowish  tinge. 

Field  Identification. — Very  similar  in  habits  to  the  Jungle  Babbler, 
but  recognisable  by  its  whitish  head  and  dark  brown  throat  and  breast. 

Distribution. — This  species  of  Babbler  is  confined  to  Ceylon  and 
Southern  India,  south  of  a  line  drawn  through  Belgaum,  Hyderabad, 
and  the  lower  Godavari  Valley.  The  Indian  birds  are  known  as 
T.  s.  affiniSy  while  the  typical  race  from  Ceylon  differs  in  having  the 
head  concolorous  with  the  back  and  the  streaks  on  the  back  less  well 
defined.  It  is  a  strictly  resident  species. 

Habits,  etc. — The  White-headed  Babbler  is  a  plains  species,  and 
only  ascends  the  various  hill  ranges  up  to  a  height  of  about  2000  feet. 
It  is  the  Common  Babbler  of  Madras,  and  in  habits  is  very  similar 
to  the  Jungle  Babbler,  going  about  in  noisy,  excitable  parties  that 
feed  on  the  ground  and  fly  up  into  the  trees  when  disturbed.  They 
hop  and  climb  up  the  larger  branches  of  the  tree  to  the  top,  and  then 
fly  off  to  the  next  tree  singly  in  extended  file,  with  slow  dnd  laborious 
flight,  a  few  rapid  strokes  of  the  short  round  wings  alternating  with 
gliding  on  outstretched  pinions.  The  alarm  forgotten,  one  bird  drops 
again  to  the  ground,  followed  in  succession  by  the  others  of  the  flock, 
and  once  more  they  are  busy  turning  over  the  leaves. 

The  call  is  a  loud  sibilant  or  whispering  sort  of  chatter. 

The  breeding  season  is  somewhat  extended  and  odd  nests  may 
be  found  almost  any  time  in  the  year.  The  majority  of  eggs  are, 
however,  laid  from  March  to  July.  The  nest  is  the  usual  large, 
loosely-constructed  cup  of  the  genus,  built  of  roots,  fine  twigs,  and 
grass  stems,  and  is  built  at  no  great  height  from  the  ground  in  shrubs 
and  bushes,  those  of  a  thorny  nature  being  preferred. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs  ;  they  are  fairly  regular 
ovals,  fine  and  hard  in  texture  and  exceedingly  glossy.  In  colour 
they  are  of  a  deep  unmarked  greenish-blue. 

In  size  they  average  about  0-99  by  0-75  inches. 

This  is  a  favourite  foster-parent  for  the  Pied  Crested  Cuckoo 
(Clamator  jacobinus). 

THE  COMMON   BABBLER 

ARGYA  CAUDATA  (Dumeril) 
(Plate  iii,  Fig.  4,  opposite  page  44) 

Description. — Length  9  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Whole  upper  plumage 
pale  fulvous-brown,  each  feather  streaked  with  dark  brown  ;  quills 
brown,  lighter  on  the  outer  webs ;  tail  long,  graduated,  and  olive- 
brown,  cross-rayed,  and  the  shafts  very  dark  ;  chin  and  throat  fulvous- 
white  ;  lower  plumage  pale  fulvous,  albescent  on  the  abdomen,  and 
the  sides  of  the  breast  faintly  striated. 


44  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

Iris  yellow-brown  ;  bill  light  brown,  base  of  lower  mandible 
yellow  ;  legs  olive-yellow,  claws  dusky. 

Field  Identification. — A  smallish  bird,  brown  with  dark  streakings 
on  the  upper  surface,  and  fulvous  and  whitish  below ;  tail  elongated 
and  graduated.  In  flight  looks  singularly  like  a  miniature  hen  Pheasant. 
Lives  in  parties  in  every  type  of  open  ground  with  bushes  or  grass 
clumps  ;  one  of  the  commonest  birds  of  Northern  India. 

Distribution. — The  Common  Babbler  extends  from  Afghanistan, 
Baluchistan,  and  South-east  Persia  right  through  India,  from  the 
outer  fringe  of  the  Himalayas  east  to  Western  Bengal  and  south 
to  the  Palni  Hills  and  Rameswaram  Island.  With  this  wide  range 
it  has  been  divided  into  three  races.  The  large  and  pale  form  from 
Afghanistan,  Baluchistan,  and  South-east  Persia  is  known  as  A.  c. 
huttoni ;  a  dark  form  with  heavy  streaking  on  the  upper  surface  and 
brightly  rufous  under  parts  named  by  Hume  A.  c.  eclipes,  inhabits 
the  plateau  from  Rawal  Pindi  and  the  Salt  Range  to  Peshawar  ;  and 
the  rest  of  the  range  is  inhabited  by  the  typical  form. 

This  species  does  not  occur  higher  than  4000  feet  in  the  Outer 
Himalayas  and  it  avoids  the  higher  elevations  in  all  the  continental 
hill  ranges.  In  Southern  India  it  is  less  common  and  very  local. 
A  strictly  resident  species. 

Habits,  etc. — This  bird  avoids  swampy  ground,  where  it  is 
replaced  throughout  Northern  India  by  a  more  richly-coloured  and 
larger  species,  the  Striated  Babbler  (Argya  earlii\  in  which  the  chin 
and  throat  are  rufous  with  dark  streaks.  It  also  dislikes  heavy 
forest  and  hill  areas  except  those  low  elevations  within  easy  reach 
of  their  bases.  It  is  essentially  a  bird  of  open  country,  and  in 
Northern  India  is  one  of  the  most  common  and  familiar  of  species 
found  everywhere  alike,  in  cultivation  and  in  gardens,  amongst  waste 
rocky  ravines  studded  with  bushes,  and  in  the  desolate  semi-desert 
areas  ;  ground  cover  is  the  only  factor  that  it  insists  upon,  for  it  is 
somewhat  of  a  skulker  and  prefers  the  neighbourhood  of  the  ground, 
seldom  mounting  into  trees  or  venturing  right  out  into  the  open. 
It  particularly  favours  those  wide  open  plains  where  patches  of 
cultivation  shaded  with  occasional  tamarisk  and  kikur  trees  alternate 
with  stretches  of  waste  ground  on  which  clumps  of  sarpat  grass  and 
bushes  of  the  uck  and  the  wild  caper  ring  their  monotonous  changes. 

This  Babbler  lives  in  small  parties  of  six  or  eight  individuals 
and  such  parties  may  be  met  with  throughout  the  year,  even  in  the 
breeding  season.  They  feed  mostly  on  the  ground,  hopping  rapidly 
about  with  a  bouncing  gait,  and  their  long  tails  trailing.  At  the 
slightest  alarm  they  take  refuge  in  the  bushes  or  grass  near  whose 
shelter  they  have  been  feeding.  When  leaving  one  patch  of  cover 
for  another  they  fly  off  singly,  one  after  another,  with  a  weak 
parachuting  flight,  the  wings  extended,  and  the  tail  partly  spread, 


PLATE  III 


I.  Variegated  Laughing-Thrush.    2.  Yellow-eyed  Babbler.     3.  Purple  Sunbird. 
4.  Common  Babbler.    5.  Streaked  Laughing-Thrush.    (All  about  *$  nat.  size.) 


[JPafij.44 


THE    COMMON    BABBLER  45 

looking  for  all  the  world  like  a  number  of  miniature  hen  Pheasants 
breaking  cover.  As  they  fly  they  utter  a  low  undertoned  warbling 
whistle,  first  one  bird  and  then  another  in  a  sort  of  rippling  chorus. 

The  food  consists  chiefly  of  insects. 

The  breeding  season  is  very  extended,  and  nests  have  been 
found  in  every  month  of  the  year ;  but  the  majority  will  be  found 
from  March  until  May  and  again  from  July  to  September,  as  the 
species  is  double-brooded.  The  nest  is  a  neat  and  compact  cup, 
rather  large  for  the  size  of  the  bird.  There  is  usually  a  deep  outer 
foundation  of  fine  thorny  twigs,  coarse  roots,  bents,  grass  stems,  and 
similar  materials,  while  the  actual  cup  is  composed  of  finer  grass 
stems  and  roots,  often  lined  with  a  few  hairs  or  fine  mimosa  leaves. 
It  is  usually  built  fairly  close  to  the  ground  at  a  height  of  about 
3  feet,  in  a  thick  bush  or  a  clump  of  grass,  and  is  generally  well 
concealed.  An  occasional  nest,  however,  may  be  found  in  higher 
and  more  open  situations,  as  for  instance  8  feet  from-  the  ground 
in  a  fork  of  a  kikur  tree. 

The  usual  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs,  but  occasionally 
only  two  are  laid. 

The  eggs  are  a  moderately  elongated  oval,  slightly  compressed 
towards  one  end.  They  are  glossy,  often  brilliantly  so,  and  of  a 
delicate  pure  spotless  somewhat  pale  blue.  There  is  very  little  variation 
in  the  colour  of  these  eggs. 

They  measure  about  0-85  by  0-63  inches. 

This  Babbler  is  frequently  selected  as  a  foster-parent  by  the  Pied 
Crested  Cuckoo  (Clamator  jacobinus). 


THE  LARGE  GREY  BABBLER 
ARGYA  MALCOLMI  (Sykes) 

Description. — Length  n  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
dull  brown,  the  feathers  of  the  upper  back  with  dark  centres  ;  forehead 
ashy-grey  with  fine  white  shaft-stripes  ;  wings  dark  brown,  the  outer 
flight-feathers  hoary  brown  on  the  outer  webs,  the  others  edged  with 
the  colour  of  the  back ;  entire  lower  plumage  fulvescent  grey ;  tail 
full  and  graduated,  pale  brown,  the  central  pair  of  feathers  cross- 
rayed,  the  three  outer  pairs  white  and  the  next  pair  edged  with  white. 

Iris  bright  yellow  ;  bill  dark  brown,  lower  mandible  fleshy  ;  legs 
fleshy-yellow. 

Field  Identification. — In  noisy  squeaky  parties  in  open  cultivation  ; 
a  typical  sandy-brown  Babbler  easily  recognised  from  the  other  species 
by  its  size  and  the  broad  white  edge  to  the  tail,  conspicuous  in  flight. 

Distribution. — This  fine   Babbler  is  locally  common  throughout 


46  POPULAR   HANDBOOK   OF   INDIAN   BIRDS 

the  greater  portion  of  the  plains  of  India  from  a  line  roughly  through 
Ludhiana,  Ferozepore,  and  Mount  Aboo  in  the  North-west  to  the 
western  boundary  of  Bengal,  and  south  to  the  Nilgiris  and  Salem. 
It  is  a  strictly  resident  species. 

Habits,  etc. — This  Babbler  does  not  differ  in  any  material  respect 
in  habits  from  the  more  numerous  Jungle  Babbler,  though  it  is  not 
quite  so  untidy  in  plumage.  It  is  particularly  a  bird  of  cultivated 
plains  where  small  groves  alternate  with  open  fields  and  it  is  never 
found  away  from  trees.  It  appears  also  in  gardens,  both  in  large 
towns  and  about  small  villages.  Half  of  its  time  is  spent  in  the 
trees,  the  other  half  on  the  ground,  where  it  turns  over  dead  leaves 
and  investigates  low-growing  foliage  in  search  of  the  insect  and  other 
small  forms  of  life  that  form  the  major  portion  of  its  diet ;  seeds  and 
fruits  are  also  eaten. 

This  is  one  of  the  most  gregarious  species  that  it  is  possible  to 
imagine.  The  birds  live  in  small  parties  of  six  to  a  dozen  individuals, 
and  these  parties  do  not  break  up  in  the  breeding  season,  even 
though  members  of  them  may  have  nests  and  eggs  in  the  vicinity. 
Woe  to  any  enemy  that  falls  foul  of  one  of  the  party  ;  the  remainder 
fall  on  it  tooth  and  nail,  and  in  this  respect  the  species  is  more 
valiant  even  than  the  Jungle  Babbler,  a  fact  that  the  smaller  hawks 
recognise,  generally  not  attempting  to  molest  them.  These  Babblers 
are  very  noisy,  with  the  hysterical  squeaky  calls  typical  of  the  family 
uttered  on  the  slightest  provocation. 

The  nest  may  be  found  in  any  month  in  the  year,  though  the 
majority  of  the  birds  breed  from  March  until  August.  Possibly 
more  than  one  brood  is  reared.  The  nest  is  built  at  a  height  of 
some  4  to  10  feet  from  the  ground  and  is  usually  ill-concealed, 
depending  for  its  protection  more  on  the  fact  that  it  is  generally 
placed  in  some  thorny  tree  of  the  mimosa  type.  It  is  a  large, 
loosely-woven  but  fairly  neat,  cup-shaped  structure,  made  of  fine 
roots,  small  sticks,  and  dry  grass,  with  generally  an  outer  casing  of 
thorny  twigs.  The  cup  is  sometimes  lined  with  fine  grass  and  roots 
or  horse-hair. 

Two  to  five  eggs  are  laid,  but  the  normal  clutch  consists  of  four. 
The  eggs  are  indistinguishable  from  those  of  the  Jungle  Babbler, 
rather  broad  ovals,  compressed  at  one  end,  very  glossy  and  smooth 
in  texture,  and  an  unmarked  "  Hedge-Sparrow  blue  "  in  colour. 

They  measure  about  0-99  by  0-77  inches. 

This  Babbler  is  frequently  selected  as  a  foster-parent  by  the  Pied 
Crested  Cuckoo  (Clamator  jacobinus). 


THE  DECCAN  SCIMITAR-BABBLER        47 


THE  DECCAN  SCIMITAR-BABBLER 

POMATORHINUS   HORSFIELDII    Sykes 
(Plate  v,  Fig.  2,  opposite  page  88) 

Description. — Length  10  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
dark  earthy-brown  tinged  with  rufous  and  darker  on  the  head  ;  a 
white  eyebrow-line  edged  above  with  black  over  the  eye ;  sides  of 
head  and  neck  and  a  band  bordering  the  breast  and  abdomen 
blackish-brown  ;  chin,  throat,  breast,  and  abdomen  white  ;  flanks 
and  a  patch  under  the  tail  slaty-brown. 

Iris  brown  or  crimson  ;  bill  yellow,  dusky  at  base  of  upper 
mandible  ;  legs  greenish-plumbeous. 

Bill  long,  curved  and  compressed,  recalling  a  scimitar  in  shape  ; 
short  rounded  wings  ;  long  graduated  tail ;  shape  rather  ungainly. 

Field  Identification. — Lower  India  only.  Scimitar-shaped  bill, 
dark  plumage  with  the  conspicuous  white  eyebrow  and  white  plastron 
with  its  dark  edging  are  distinctive. 

Distribution. — Confined  to  the  Indian  Peninsula  and  Ceylon.  This 
Scimitar-Babbler  is  divided  into  a  number  of  races  distinguished  by 
small  details  of  coloration  of  the  plumage  and  size  of  the  bill.  A 
greyish  form  P.  h.  obscurus  is  found  in  Mount  Aboo,  the  Central 
Provinces  and  the  area  round  Khandesh.  The  typical  race  is  found 
from  Khandala  to  Goa,  in  Mysore  and  in  Orissa  and  the  Upper 
Eastern  Ghats.  The  rich  olive-brown  form  P.  h.  travancoreensis 
occupies  the  Lower  Western  Ghats  from  North  Kanara  to  Travancore, 
including  the  Nilgiris.  P.  h.  maderaspatensis  is  confined  to  the  Lower 
Eastern  Ghats  from  the  Krishna  Valley  southwards.  P.  h.  melanurus 
of  the  low  country  wet  zone,  S.W.  Ceylon,  is  a  bright  ferruginous 
bird,  while  P.  h.  holdsworthi  is  a  more  olivaceous  brown  and  inhabits 
the  dry  zone  of  both  low  country  and  hills. 

This  species  occurs  both  in  the  plains  and  in  the  hill  ranges  up 
to  at  least  8000  feet.  It  is  strictly  resident. 

Habits,  etc. — This  Scimitar-Babbler  is  common  in  evergreen 
jungle,  in  bamboo  thickets,  in  thorny  scrub  or  in  dense  bush  jungle 
on  hill-sides.  It  is  usually  found  in  pairs  or  in  small  parties  of  four 
or  five  birds  and  sometimes  double  this  number  collect  together  or 
join  the  mixed  hunting  parties. 

Individuals  keep  in  touch  with  each  other  by  a  variety  of  mellow 
bubbling  and  whistling  calls  and  when  excited  break  into  the  torrent 
of  loud  shrieks  and  whistles  which  are  used  by  all  the  Scimitar-Babblers. 
In  the  case  of  pairs  the  male  acts  as  leader  and  is  followed  about 
from  one  bush  or  tree  to  another  by  the  female  who  acknowledges 
every  one  of  his  musical  whistles  with  a  subdued  kroo-kroo  or  kro-kant. 


48  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

Although  very  shy  and  seldom  showing  themselves  they  readily 
respond  to  a  decoy  whistle  and  may  be  called  long  distances  by  such 
an  imitation.  When  disturbed  the  birds  hop  along  the  branches 
with  great  agility  as  if  to  get  under  way  before  taking  to  wing. 

The  food  consists  of  grubs,  worms,  insects  and  the  like  and  in 
search  of  it  the  birds  descend  a  good  deal  to  the  ground  where  they 
turn  over  the  dead  leaves  in  typical  Babbler  fashion.  They  cut  and 
dig  vigorously  with  their  shapely  bills  in  the  earth,  cling  to  the  face 
of  banks  and  probe  the  moss  and  bark  of  the  trees,  and  when  the 
cotton-tree  is  in  flower  they  join  the  many  species  that  rifle  the 
blossoms  for  insects  and  nectar. 

The  breeding  season  extends  from  December  to  May. 

The  nest  is  a  loosely-constructed  globular  structure,  with  the 
entrance  at  one  side,  placed  on  the  ground  in  thick  herbage  or  low 
in  a  bush.  It  is  composed  of  grass  or  moss  mixed  with  leaves,  bracken, 
and  roots,  and  is  so  flimsy  in  build  that  it  falls  to  pieces  on  removal. 
There  is  no  lining  to  the  egg  cavity. 

Three  to  five  eggs  are  laid. 

The  egg  is  an  elongated  oval,  slightly  compressed  towards  the 
small  fend.  It  is  very  fragile,  smooth,  and  satiny  in  texture,  with  very 
little  gloss.  The  colour  is  pure  white. 

The  egg  measures  about  1-08  by  0-77  inches. 


THE  RUSTY-CHEEKED  SCIMITAR-BABBLER 

POMATORHINUS   ERYTHROGENYS  Vigors 

Description. — Length  n  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage, 
tail,  and  the  exposed  part  of  the  closed  wings  olive-brown  ;  centre' of 
whole  lower  plumage  white,  striped  with  very  pale  grey  on  the  chin 
and  throat ;  forehead,  sides  of  head  and  neck  and  sides  of  lower 
plumage  chestnut,  washed  with  olive  on  the  sides  of  the  breast  and 
flanks. 

Iris  yellowish-white  ;  bill  light  horny  ;  legs  brownish-fleshy. 

Bill  long,  curved,  and  compressed,  recalling  a  scimitar  in  shape. 
Tail  long  and  graduated ;  wings  small  and  rounded  ;  general  build 
rather  ungainly. 

Field  Identification. — Himalayan  form.  Curved  bill,  olive-brown 
upper  parts  and  chestnut  and  white  under  parts  distinctive,  combined 
with  shy  habits  in  undergrowth  and  melodious  call. 

Distribution. — The  Rusty-cheeked  Scimitar-Babbler  has  a  wide 
distribution,  being  found  along  the  whole  length  of  the  Himalayas 
through  Assam,  Burma,  and  Tenasserim  to  Yunnan  and  China. 
It  is  divided  into  several  races,  of  which  two  are  found  in  the 


THE    RUSTY-CHEEKED    SCIMITAR-BABBLER          49 

Himalayas  and  come  into  our  area.  The  Western  race  is  the 
typical  one  and  is  found  from  the  Murree  Hills  to  about  Mussoorie. 
The  Eastern  race  is  known  as  P.  e.  haringtoni  and  differs  in  its 
slightly  smaller  size  and  in  having  the  whole  chin,  throat,  and  upper 
breast  dark  ashy  mingled  with  white.  It  is  found  from  Garhwal  to 
Sikkim,  but  the  birds  from  the  western  edge  of  this  range  are  very 
intermediate  in  character. 

In  the  Western  Himalayas  this  Scimitar- Babbler  is  found  most 
commonly  between  3000  and  7000  feet,  though  it  certainly  occurs 
down  to  2000  feet  and  up  to  10,000  feet.  The  Eastern  form 
occupies  a  slightly  lower  zone  between  1000  and  7000  feet.  It  is 
a  strictly  resident  species  and  appears  to  change  its  elevation  very 
slightly  with  the  season. 

The  Slaty-headed  Scimitar-Babbler  (Pomatorhinus  schisticeps)  is 
another  Himalayan  species  found  at  low  elevations  from  Kangra  to 
Assam  and  into  Burma.  The  upper  parts  are  olive-brown  with  the 
top  of  the  head  dark-slate  ;  a  white  line  over  the  eye  and  the  rich 
maroon-chestnut  sides  with  white  streaks  are  distinctive. 

Habits,  etc. — This  bird  is  a  dweller  in  dense  undergrowth,  whether 
in  the  form  of  thick  grass  and  bushes  on  treeless  hill -sides,  or  forests 
with  heavy  secondary  growth.  The  greater  part  of  its  life  is  spent 
in  the  bushes,  but  it  feeds  a  good  deal  on  the  ground  under  cover, 
shuffling  amongst  dead  leaves,  and  when  disturbed  in  this  occupation 
it  can  make  off  at  a  good  speed  with  a  succession  of  long,  bounding 
hops  like  a  rat.  It  is  a  social  species,  usually  found  in  small  parties, 
whose  presence  would  not  be  suspected  from  their  skulking  habits 
were  it  not  for  their  noisiness.  The  call  of  the  male  consists  of  a 
pair  of  notes,  the  second  rapidly  following  the  first  and  being  about 
an  octave  lower.  If  the  female  is  within  earshot,  as  she  usually  is,  she 
replies  with  a  single  note  immediately  after  the  second  note  uttered 
by  the  male,  so  that  the  three  notes  together  make  a  mellow  whistle 
kor-quee-oh,  which  to  the  uninitiated  sounds  like  the  call  of  a  single 
bird.  This  familiar  duet,  varied  with  a  clear  quoip,  is  audible  some 
distance  away.  They  have  also  a  hard,  scolding  note  reminiscent  of 
that  uttered  by  many  of  the  Babblers  and  the  Tree-Pie.  A  faint 
feeding-note  tep-tep  is  only  heard  when  the  birds  are  close  at  hand. 
These  birds  respond  readily  to  an  imitation  of  their  calls  and  may 
be  decoyed  in  this  manner.  They  seldom  leave  cover  and  come 
into  the  open,  but  when  they  do  take  to  wing  the  flight  is  swift  and 
strong,  though  the  short  wings  combined  with  the  heavy  bill  and 
tail  give  the  bird  a  curious,  ungainly  appearance.  This  species  is 
said  to  indulge  in  a  habit  of  dancing  like  other  members  of  the  genus. 

The  food  consists  of  grubs,  beetles,  earthworms,  and  various 
insects  mostly  obtainable  on  the  ground,  but  berries  are  also  eaten. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  April  to  June. 

D 


50  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

The  nest  is  a  domed  structurewith  a  broad  opening  high  on  one  side ; 
it  is  loosely  constructed  of  coarse  grass,  dry  ferns,  dead  leaves,  and  fern 
roots,  and  there  is  no  particular  lining.  It  is  placed  on  the  ground  in 
thick  herbage  near  the  edge  of  clumps  of  brushwood  or  scrub-jungle. 

Two  to  four  eggs  are  laid  ;  they  are  long,  narrow  ovals,  fine  in 
texture  with  a  fair  gloss  and  pure  white  in  colour. 

In  size  they  average  about  i  •  1 1  by  o-  8  inches. 


THE   RUFOUS-BELLIED   BABBLER 

DUMETIA  HYPERYTHRA  (Franklin) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Front  half  of  crown 
reddish-brown  ;  upper  plumage,  wing,  and  tail  olive-brown,  the  tail 
cross-rayed  ;  sides  of  the  face  and  entire  lower  plumage  bright  fulvous. 

Iris  light-brown  ;  bill  livid  pale  horny  ;  legs  very  pale  fleshy. 

The  feathers  of  the  forehead  have  stiff  shafts.  The  tail  is  much 
graduated,  the  outer  feather  only  reaching  to  the  middle. 

Field  Identification. — A  small  olive-brown  bird  with  bright  rufous 
under  parts  ;  a  white  throat-patch  in  one  race.  Found  in  small  parties 
skulking  in  thick  cover. 

Distribution. — Confined  to  India  and  Ceylon  and  divided  into 
three  races.  The  typical  race  is  found  in  a  wide  area  east  of  a  line 
from  the  Kumaon  Bhabar  through  Jhansi,  Mhow,  the  Satpuras, 
Jalna,  and  Hyderabad  to  the  Krishna  River.  It  occurs  as  far  east 
as  Midnapore.  To  the  west  and  south  of  this  area,  from  Sambhar 
and  Mount  Aboo  on  the  north  down  to  the  extreme  south,  it  is 
replaced  by  D.  h.  albogularis.  This  race  differs  in  its  lighter  coloration 
and  in  having  a  well-defined  white  patch  on  the  chin  and  throat  and 
a  tinge  of  white  on  the  centre  of  the  abdomen.  D.  h.  phillipsi  of  Ceylon 
is  similar  to  the  latter  but  has  a  larger  bill  and  paler  under  parts. 

The  closely  allied  Red-capped  Babbler  (Timalia pileata)  is  common 
in  the  extensive  grass  plains  along  the  terais  and  duars  of  the  north-east, 
extending  also  into  Assam  and  Burma  and  a  considerable  part  of 
Bengal.  The  deep  rufous  crown,  white  streak  over  each  eye,  olive- 
brown  upper  parts,  deeply-graduated  tail,  and  the  white  breast  with 
fine  black  streaking  are  distinctive. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Rufous -bellied  Babbler  is  a  bird  of  thick  cover. 
It  may  be  found  in  scrub-jungle,  in  tall  grass  interspersed  with 
thorn  bushes,  or  in  the  patches  and  hedges  of  tall  euphorbia  plants 
which  are  a  feature  of  many  parts  of  Southern  India.  In  such  cover 
it  is  found  in  small  parties  of  four  to  eight  birds,  which  keep  up  a 
low  cheep  cheep,  varied  by  harsh  tittering  notes.  It  is  a  most 
inveterate  skulker,  keeping  as  far  as  possible  out  of  sight,  one  bird 


THE    RUFOUS-BELLIED    BABBLER  51 

following  another  from  bush  to  bush.  On  taking  alarm  the  members 
of  a  party  promptly  dive  into  the  thickest  portions  of  the  undergrowth 
and  disperse  in  all  directions,  though  they  soon  reassemble  when  the 
alarm  is  over. 

The  breeding  season  of  the  typical  race  is  well  defined  throughout 
its  range,  being  in  the  monsoon  from  June  to  August.  Most  eggs 
are  laid  in  July.  In  the  other  Indian  race  it  varies  from  the  middle  of 
April  to  the  middle  of  October,  irrespective  of  locality. 

The  nest  is  built  on,  or  very  close  to,  the  ground,  either  amongst 
dead  leaves,  in  coarse  grass,  or  in  small  bushes.  A  favourite  situation 
is  in  amongst  the  roots  of  a  bamboo  clump.  The  nest  is  a  loosely- 
constructed  ball  of  bamboo  leaves  or  broad  blades  of  grass,  sometimes 
incorporating  a  few  dead  leaves.  It  is  occasionally  unlined.  Usually, 
however,  there  is  a  slight  lining  of  fine  grass  roots,  fine  grass  stems, 
or  a  few  hairs.  The  entrance  is  in  the  side.  An  unfinished  nest  is 
deserted  on  very  slight  provocation. 

The  usual  clutch  consists  of  four  eggs,  but  often  there  are  only 
three.  The  eggs  vary  in  shape  from  short  and  broad  to  moderately 
long  ovals.  The  texture  is  fine  with  a  variable  amount  of  gloss. 
The  ground-colour  is  pure  white,  spotted  and  speckled  with  shades 
of  red,  brownish-red,  and  reddish-purple.  These  markings  vary  in 
character,  but  tend  to  collect  in  a  cap  or  zone  on  the  broad  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-70  by  0-53  inches. 


THE  YELLOW-EYED   BABBLER 

CHRYSOMMA  SINENSIS  (Gmelin) 

(Plate  iii,  Fig.  2,  opposite  page  44) 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  whole  upper 
plumage  rufescent-brown,  changing  to  cinnamon  on  the  exposed 
portions  of  the  wings  ;  a  patch  in  front  above  and  below  the  eye, 
and  the  whole  lower  plumage  white,  tinged  with  fulvous  on  the  flanks, 
abdomen,  and  under  the  tail.  The  tail  is  long  and  graduated,  and 
the  feathers  are  faintly  cross-rayed. 

Iris  yellow,  eyelids  deep  orange ;  bill  black,  yellowish  behind 
nostrils  ;  legs  pale  orange-yellow. 

Field  Identification. — A  small  rufous  bird  with  white  under  parts 
and  a  rather  long  full  tail ;  orange  eyelids  are  conspicuous.  Found 
in  parties  in  undergrowth. 

Distribution. — The  Yellow-eyed  Babbler  is  a  bird  of  very  wide 
distribution  occurring  throughout  India,  Burma,  and  Siam,  and  in 
China,  but  is  rather  local.  As  is  to  be  expected  with  this  wide  range 
it  has  been  divided  into  several  races,  of  which  three  occur  within 
our  area.  They  are  distinguished  by  depth  and  tint  of  coloration. 


52  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

The  typical  race,  originally  described  from  China,  is  found  through 
Yunnan,  Siam,  Burma,  and  Assam  to  Bengal,  and  apparently  also  in 
Madras,  the  Central  Provinces,  and  Belgaum. 

A  dark  form,  P.  s.  saturatior,  occurs  in  Nepal,  Sikkim,  and  the 
Bhutan  and  Buxa  Duars. 

A  pale  form,  P.  s.  hypoleucus,  is  found  in  Sind,  Jodhpur,  the 
North-west  Frontier  Province,  portions  of  the  Punjab,  the  United 
Provinces,  Khandesh,  and  Kathiawar.  While  strictly  speaking  a 
plains  bird,  the  Yellow-eyed  Babbler  is  found  along  the  outer 
Himalayas  to  a  height  of  4000  feet,  and  in  the  Nilgiris  it  is 
found  up  to  5000  feet.  A  resident  species  everywhere. 

Habits,  etc. — While  occasionally  met  with  in  pairs  this  pretty 
little  bird  usually  goes  about  in  parties.  It  avoids  forest  and  wanders 
about  in  open  country  frequenting  tall  grass,  low  scrub,  and  patches 
of  bushes,  being  also  a  familiar  garden  bird.  In  habits  it  is  a  typical 
Babbler,  and  while  rather  inclined  to  skulk  in  thick  cover  is  apt  to  be 
noisy.  It  appears  to  visit  the  ground  very  seldom.  Some  of  its  notes 
are  quite  sweet,  and  might  almost  be  dignified  by  the  name  of  song. 

Small  birds  that  live  in  parties  in  thick  cover  have  all  much  the 
same  habits.  The  individuals  work  from  stem  to  stem  unseen  down 
in  the  thicket,  picking  insects,  caterpillars,  and  their  eggs  from  the 
leaves  and  twigs.  Then  one  bird  works  to  the  top  and  suns  itself 
for  a  few  seconds  and  utters  a  snatch  of  song  before  plunging  again 
into  the  cover  below,  while  another  bird  in  turn  emerges  for  his  breath 
of  air  and  sunlight. 

I  have  seen  a  bird  at  the  nest  feign  m  a  most  realistic  manner  to 
be  wounded,  swaying  with  wings  and  tail  outspread  on  a  twig,  as  if 
about  to  topple  over  and  fall  at  any  moment. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  June  to  September. 

The  nest  is  a  very  compact  and  beautiful  structure,  made  of  broad 
blades  of  grass  and  long  strips  of  fine  fibrous  bark,  coated  exteriorly 
with  cobwebs  and  gossamer  threads  and  lined  with  fine  grass  stems 
and  roots.  It  is  generally  built  in  gardens  about  4  to  6  feet  from  the 
ground  in  upright  forks  in  hedges  or  trees,  or  suspended  in  thick  grass 
sterns  after  the  fashion  of  a  Reed-Warbler's  nest. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  five  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  very  broad  oval,  rather  obtuse  at  the  smaller  end. 
The  texture  is  fine  and  smooth  with  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground- 
colour is  pinkish-white,  and  the  markings  are  of  two  main  types  ;  in 
one  the  egg  is  so  thickly  and  finely  mottled  and  streaked  all  over 
with  brickdust-red  that  the  ground-colour  is  almost  concealed  ;  in 
the  other  the  egg  is  sparingly  and  boldly  blotched  and  streaked  with 
the  same  colour,  besides  exhibiting  a  number  of  pale  inky-purple 
clouds.  Combinations  of  both  types  occur. 

The  egg  measures  about  0*73  by  0-59  inches. 


THE    SPOTTED    BABBLER  53 

THE    SPOTTED    BABBLER 

PELLORNEUM   RUFICEPS    Swainson 

(Plate  xi,  Fig.  4,  opposite  page  220) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Top  of  the  head 
dull  rufous  ;  a  whitish  line  over  the  eye  ;  remainder  of  upper  plumage 
including  wings  and  tail  olive-brown,  the  tail-feathers  tipped  with 
white  ;  sides  of  the  head  pale  rufous  marked  with  black  and  brown  ; 
lower  plumage  white  somewhat  tinged  with  fulvous  and  becoming 
olivaceous  on  the  flanks,  boldly  streaked  with  black  on  the  breast 
and  sides  ;  a  patch  under  the  tail  olive-brown  and  white. 

Iris  reddish-brown  ;  bill  dark  brown,  lower  mandible  whitish ; 
legs  fleshy-white. 

Field  Identification. — A  small  olive-brown  bird,  whitish  below, 
with  a  rufous  cap  and  heavily  streaked  breast.  Very  shy  and  found 
skulking  in  thick  undergrowth.  Attention  usually  attracted  to  it  by 
the  loud  call-note. 

Distribution. — Widely  distributed  throughout  India,  Assam,  and 
Burma,  eastwards  to  the  Malay  Peninsula,  Annam,  and  Cochin-China. 
It  is  divided  into  several  races,  of  which  we  are  concerned  with  four ; 
these  vary  only  in  depth  and  tone  of  coloration  and  the  boldness  of 
marking  on  the  sides  of  the  neck.  P.  r.  punctatum  occurs  in  the  Western 
Himalayas  from  Dharmsala  to  Garhwal.  It  is  common  in  the  Tea 
gardens  and  in  the  ravines  around  Dehra  Dun,  where  it  also  breeds. 
From  Nepal  eastwards  along  the  Himalayas  into  Assam  and  Burma 
there  is  P.  r.  mandellii.  The  species  appears  to  be  wanting  across 
the  plains  of  Northern  India,  but  the  typical  form  is  found  in  Peninsular 
India  south  of  Khandesh,  Pachmarhi,  and  the  hills  of  Chota  Nagpur, 
until  in  Travancore  it  is  replaced  by  P.  r.  granti.  All  the  races  are 
found  at  elevations  from  1500  to  4000  feet,  and  occasionally  higher, 
and  are  resident  birds. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Spotted  Babbler  is  more  often  heard  than  seen. 
Except  in  the  breeding  season  it  is  a  social  species,  and  usually  goes 
about  in  small  parties  which  keep  to  low  brushwood  and  bamboo- 
jungle.  It  never  ascends  into  trees,  and  spends  much  of  its  life  on 
the  ground  searching  for  food  amongst  fallen  leaves  and  tangles  of 
grass.  In  such  localities  it  is  hard  to  approach  and  observe  as  it 
is  very  shy,  and  the  sound  of  footsteps  sends  it  hastening  away  through 
the  bushes  with  a  harsh,  churring  alarm  note  kraa.  But  feeding  at 
their  ease  the  parties  are  rather  noisy,  and  keep  up  a  continuous 
chatter,  and  the  loud  call  is  a  familiar  sound  of  the  jungles  where  they 
live.  The  call  is  a  clear  mellow  whistle,  wheat-eeer  or  three-cheeer, 
the  first  syllable  short,  the  second  long  and  emphasised.  This  call 

D2 


54  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

may  also  be  expressed  by  the  words  pretty-dear.  It  is  easily  imitated, 
and  the  bird  responds  freely  to  the  imitation.  There  is  also  a  sweet 
song  in  the  breeding  season  consisting  of  a  number  of  loud  whistling 
notes  rambling  up  and  down  the  scale.  The  food  consists  chiefly 
of  insects. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  March  to  May,  though  second 
broods  may  be  found  until  August.  The  nest  is  placed  on  the 
ground  under  the  shelter  of  a  stone  or  bush,  or  occasionally  2  or  3 
inches  above  it  in  the  base  of  a  clump  of  bamboo.  It  is  generally 
amongst  fallen  leaves  and  similar  rubbish,  and  is  a  large  globular 
structure  composed  of  leaves  and  grass  and  slightly  lined  with  moss 
roots. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  to  four  eggs.  In  shape  they  are  broad 
regular  ovals,  compact  and  fine  in  texture,  with  a  slight  gloss.  The 
ground-colour  is  a  very  pale  greenish-  or  yellowish-white,  profusely 
speckled  and  spotted  all  over  with  reddish-brown  and  with  secondary 
spots  of  pale  grey  and  neutral  tint. 

The  average  size  is  about  0-88  by  0-65  inches. 


THE  QUAKER-BABBLER 
ALCIPPE  POIOICEPHALA  (Jerdon) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Top  of  head  ashy- 
grey  ;  remainder  of  upper  plumage  olive-brown,  becoming  ferruginous 
on  the  wings  and  tail ;  sides  of  the  head  and  neck  ashy-brown  ;  lower 
plumage  creamy  fulvous,  darker  on  the  breast  and  flanks  and  under 
the  tail. 

Iris  slaty-grey  ;   bill  horny  brown  ;   legs  greyish-fleshy. 

Field  Identification. — A  small  olive-brown  bird  with  paler  under 
parts  and  a  greyer  head.  Found  in  small  parties  in  undergrowth 
and  forest  chiefly  in  the  hills  of  Peninsular  India. 

Distribution. — Widely  distributed  in  several  races  through  India, 
Assam,  Burma,  and  Siam.  The  typical  and  most  richly-coloured 
form  is  found  along  the  Western  Ghats  from  about  Goa  down  to  the 
south  of  Travancore,  occurring  at  elevations  from  2000  feet  to  600  feet. 
A  paler  and  greyer  race,  A.  p.  brucet,  occurs  irregularly  in  the  rest  of 
the  Peninsula  south  of  a  line  from  Kathiawar,  Pachmarhi,  and  Parasnath 
Hill  at  much  the  same  elevations.  A  resident  species. 

The  smaller  Nepal  Babbler  (Alcippe  nepalensis),  common  in  the 
lower  Eastern  Himalayas,  Assam,  and  Burma,  is  easily  distinguished 
by  a  white  ring  round  the  eye  and  a  blackish  line  over  it. 

Abbott's  Babbler  (Malacocincla  sepiaria)  is  found  in  the  Eastern 
Himalayas  and  Assam  at  low  elevations.  The  plumage  is  dark  brown 


THE   QUAKER-BABBLER  55 

with  the  under  parts  paler,  the  throat  white  and  a  rufous  patch  under 
the  tail.  Although  a  forest  bird  and  a  skulker  it  is  confiding  and  tame. 

Habits,  etc. — There  is  very  little  to  say  about  the  habits  of  the 
Quaker-Babbler.  It  is  an  undistinguished  little  bird  which  goes 
about  in  parties  of  four  or  five  individuals  up  to  twenty  or  more 
which  are  confiding  enough  when  undisturbed  but  shy  and  wary 
once  their  suspicions  are  aroused.  They  keep  principally  to  patches 
of  forest,  but  may  also  be  found  in  bush-jungle,  orange  groves,  and 
similar  localities.  They  seldom  or  never  visit  the  ground,  and  prefer 
as  a  rule  to  keep  to  undergrowth.  They  frequently,  however,  climb 
higher  into  the  trees,  ascending  even  to  the  topmost  branches.  The 
members  of  a  party  act  independently  of  each  other,  but  keep  up  a 
general  communication  amongst  themselves  by  continually  calling 
and  answering  as  they  move  about.  The  song  is  of  four  or  five 
quavering  whistling  notes  of  the  tone-quality  of  the  Magpie  Robin's 
effort ;  it  is  repeated  every  few  seconds  as  the  bird  moves  about  the 
foliage.  Little  seems  to  be  recorded  about  their  food,  but  the  parties 
spend  all  their  time  searching  the  leaves  for  insects. 

The  breeding  season  seems  to  be  very  poorly  defined,  and  nests 
of  the  typical  race  are  said  to  have  been  found  in  every  month  of  the 
year.  The  Quaker-Babbler  may  be  double-brooded,  as  January  to 
April  and  again  July,  August  and  September  are  the  principal  months 
in  which  nests  have  been  recorded. 

The  nest  is  usually  built  in  the  depths  of  forest,  and  in  such  shady 
spots  is  built  in  small  trees  or  bushes  at  a  height  of  some  4  to  8  feet 
from  the  ground.  It  is  deep  and  cup-shaped,  composed  externally 
of  moss  and  dead  leaves,  and  lined  with  the  fine  roots  of  mosses  and 
ferns.  The  nest  is  usually  fixed  in  a  fork  or  suspended  from  two  or 
three  twigs,  and  is  as  a  rule  quite  conspicuous,  little  effort  at  conceal- 
ment being  attempted. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  or  occasionally  three  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  moderately  broad  oval,  somewhat  compressed  towards 
the  small  end.  The  shell  is  fine  and  somewhat  glossy.  The  ground- 
colour is  pale  salmon  marked  with  primary  blotches  and  broad  smudges 
of  deep  purple-brown  or  purple-black,  with  secondary  markings  of 
pale  grey,  inky-grey  or  purplish-grey.  There  is  a  good  deal  of  variation, 
the  markings  often  being  reduced  in  size  to  specks  and  spots,  while 
short  lines  and  hieroglyphs  are  common. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-80  by  0*60  inches. 


56  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

THE  BLACK-HEADED  BABBLER 
RHOPOCICHLA  ATRICEPS  (Jerdon) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  whole  of  the 
top  and  sides  of  the  head  black  ;  the  whole  upper  plumage  fulvous 
brown  ;  wings  dark  brown  with  the  exposed  parts  fulvous  brown  ;  tail 
brown ;  lower  plumage  dull  white,  changing  to  olivaceous  on  the 
flanks  and  under  the  tail. 

Iris  yellow  ;  bill  dull  greyish  flesh-colour,  the  upper  surface  black  ; 
legs  pinkish-grey  to  pale  plumbeous. 


FIG.  9 — Black-headed  Babbler     (i  nat.  size) 

Field  Identification.—Hilh  of  South-western  India.  A  small  bird, 
brown  above  and  whitish  below  with  a  more  or  less  black  cap,  which 
is  found  in  parties  in  dense  forest  undergrowth. 

Distribution. — The  typical  form  with  a  black  head  is  found  along 
the  Western  Ghats  from  Belgaum  to  the  Nilgiris,  being  replaced  in 
the  Cochin  and  Travancore  Hills  by  another  race  R.  a.  bourdilloni 
which  has  the  black  largely  replaced  by  sooty-brown.  A  third  race 
R.  a.  nigrifrons  is  found  in  Ceylon.  This  has  the  top  of  the  head  the 
same  colour  as  the  back  and  the  black  is  confined  to  a  broad  band 
through  each  eye  joining  across  the  forehead.  All  three  races  occur 
from  sea-level  up  to  6000  feet  and  are  strictly  resident. 


THE    BLACK-HEADED    BABBLER  57 

Habits,  etc. — This  quaint  little  bird  must  soon  be  known  to  all 
who  spend  much  time  in  the  forests  of  Coorg  and  the  Wynaad,  the 
Nilgiris  and  Travancore.  It  is  very  common  in  the  dense  marshy 
jungles  or  in  the  heavy  green  thickets  that  border  the  streams,  in  cane- 
beds  and  in  bamboo-jungle  and  it  is  also  a  bird  of  the  evergreen  forest. 
It  does  not  as  a  rule  ascend  the  trees  but  keeps  to  the  undergrowth 
and  no  thicket  is  too  dense  for  it,  though  it  has  something  of  a  preference 
for  the  edges  of  roads  and  paths  and  clearings.  In  such  cover  the 
Black-headed  Babbler  goes  about  in  parties  of  five  to  ten  birds  or  even 
in  troops  of  anything  up  to  a  couple  of  dozen  individuals.  The  flocks 
are  found  throughout  the  year  and  their  members  are  exceedingly 
active.  As  they  move  about  the  birds  utter  a  continual  low  chattering, 
a  harsh  rather  subdued  chur-r  chur-r  and  a  characteristic  habit  is  for  a 
bird  that  has  ventured  too  high  in  the  vegetation  to  drop  perpendicu- 
larly like  a  falling  leaf  into  the  thickets  below  at  the  slightest  hint  of 
an  alarm.  The  food  consists  of  insects  and  their  larvae. 

This  species  is  remarkable  for  the  habit  of  building  "  cock-nests  " 
which  are  apparently  intended  for  roosting  purposes.  Dozens  of  such 
nests  may  be  found  at  all  times  of  the  year  in  the  jungles  where  the 
birds  are  common,  for  no  effort  is  made  to  conceal  them.  They  are 
very  loosely  and  untidily  constructed,  thick  masses  of  bamboo  leaves 
with  the  entrance  at  the  side  and  they  never  seem  to  be  lined. 

The  true  nest  is  much  smaller  and  more  tightly  and  neatly  woven 
and  it  has  a  lining  of  black  rootlets  or  fine  grass.  It  is  also  much  more 
carefully  concealed,  being  placed  in  tangles  of  reeds  and  grass,  in  thick 
creepers  or  in  bushes,  usually  only  a  foot  or  two  from  the  ground. 
These  nests  also  may  be  found  in  any  month  of  the  year,  but  the 
breeding  season  proper  is  said  to  be  from  May  to  July  in  the  Nilgiris 
and  a  little  earlier  in  Travancore. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  moderately  broad,  very  regular  oval,  only  slightly 
compressed  towards  the  smaller  end.  The  shell  is  fine  and  satiny  but 
has  only  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  white  or  faintly  greyish- 
white,  profusely  speckled  with  minute  dots  of  brownish  and  purplish- 
red,  the  dots  being  slightly  more  numerous  towards  the  larger  end. 

It  measures  about  0-75  by  0-55  inches. 


58  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

THE  BLACK-HEADED   SIBIA 
LEIOPTILA  CAPISTRATA  (Vigors) 

(Plate  v,  Fig.  4,  opposite  page  88) 

Description. — Length  9  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Top  and  sides  of 
the  head  black  with  a  bushy  crest ;  the  whole  of  the  body  plumage 
bright  rufous  except  the  back  between  the  wings  which  is  greyish- 
brown  ;  wings  variegated  bluish-grey,  black  and  rufous  with  a  white 
bar  across  the  coverts ;  tail  long  and  graduated,  black  with  a  broad 
sooty-grey  tip,  all  feathers  with  a  rufous  base  diminishing  rapidly 
from  the  centre  to  the  sides. 

Iris  reddish-brown  ;   bill  black  ;   legs  fleshy-brown. 

Field  Identification. — Himalayan  form.  A  graceful  rufous  bird 
with  dark  crest,  wings,  and  tail ;  purely  arboreal  and,  except  when 
breeding,  in  small  parties  ;  active  and  noisy. 

Distribution. — This  species  is  found  throughout  the  Himalayas 
from  the  Hazara  country  to  the  Dafla  Hills.  It  is  divided  into  three 
races.  The  large  and  pale  typical  race  is  found  in  the  western  portion 
of  this  range  to  about  Naini  Tal.  In  Nepal  it  is  replaced  by  L.  c. 
nigriceps  which  is  more  rusty-red  in  tone  and  has  the  back  reddish- 
brown.  It  is  also  somewhat  smaller.  This  form  grades  through 
Sikkim  and  the  Chumbi  Valley  into  L.  c.  baileyi  of  Bhutan  and  Southern 
Tibet.  This  has  the  back  sooty-brown  tinged  with  grey.  It  is  a  strictly 
resident  species  except  for  some  seasonal  altitudinal  movements. 
It  breeds  about  6000  to  9000  feet  and  in  winter  wanders  down  to 
4000  feet. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Sibia  is  a  very  common  bird  in  portions  of  its 
range,  as  for  instance  at  Simla  and  Darjeeling,  where  its  striking 
appearance  and  ringing  call  attract  the  attention  of  many  who  are 
not  naturalists.  It  is  a  purely  arboreal  species,  spending  most  of 
its  time  at  heights  of  20  to  50  feet  from  the  ground,  and  only  rarely 
descending  to  the  undergrowth.  Out  of  the  breeding  season  it  is 
commonly  found  in  parties  of  half  a  dozen  birds,  which  usually  keep 
to  themselves  but  sometimes  join  the  mixed  hunting  parties  temporarily. 

They  are  very  active  birds,  running  and  gliding  through  tangles 
of  creepers,  and  are  also  accomplished  gymnasts,  clinging  to  slender 
stems,  head  downwards,  to  probe  the  blossoms  for  insects.  Super- 
ficially they  greatly  resemble  the  Laughing-Thrushes.  They  have 
the  same  habit  of  flitting  very  rapidly  up  a  tree  from  branch  to  branch, 
keeping  close  to  and  partly  hidden  by  the  trunk,  but  they  are  more 
ready  to  fly  from  bough  to  bough  and  tree  to  tree  and  are  by  no  means 
such  skulkers.  They  come  freely  into  the  open  and  often  launch  into 
mid-air  in  open  spaces  amongst  the  trees  to  catch  insects  on  the  wing  ; 
but  being  naturally  shy  they  disappear  again  into  cover  at  the  least 
alarm. 


THE  BLACK-HEADED   SIBIA  59 

The  plumage  is  not  quite  so  loose  and  fluffy  in  appearance  as 
that  of  the  Laughing-Thrushes.  The  crest  is  generally  held  raised. 
The  flight  is  heavy  with  a  hard  noisy  beat  of  the  wings,  and  is  rather 
erratic  and  jerky  as  if  the  bird  had  difficulty  in  keeping  straight. 
There  is  a  characteristic  habit  of  flying  to  a  tree-trunk  and  clinging 
to  the  bark  while  picking  some  insect  or  larva  from  it. 

The  Sibia  has  a  variety  of  notes.  In  winter  when  the  birds  are 
in  parties  they  converse  continuously  with  a  faint  ti-te-te  note,  or  a 
little  chittering  sound  similar  to  that  of  a  Tit,  uttered  in  concert  by 
several  of  the  party,  some  concealed  in  the  foliage,  others  exposed 
to  view  on  open  boughs  where  they  perch,  jerking  their  tails  suddenly 
up  and  down  and  occasionally  flicking  the  wings,  turning  from  side  to 
side,  eternally  restless.  A  loud  scolding  note  tchaa-tchaa  appears  to 
be  an  alarm  note.  During  the  breeding  season  the  woods  resound 
with  their  loud  ringing  whistle  titter ee-titteree-tweeye,  which  has  an 
astonishing  thrill  of  joy  and  gladness  in  it. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  May  to  August,  but  most  birds 
do  not  nest  till  the  rains  have  commenced. 

The  nest  is  a  neat  cup  of  green  moss  lined  with  black  moss  roots, 
grass,  pine-needles,  or  fibres.  It  is  built  at  heights  from  10  to  50 
feet  from  the  ground  in  deodars,  hollies,  and  other  trees,  and  is  often 
well  concealed  close  to  the  trunk  or  in  foliage  ;  a  favourate  situation 
is  also  in  briers  and  creepers  overgrowing  a  tree. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  or  three  eggs.  They  are  rather  broad 
ovals  elongated  at  one  end  ;  the  texture  is  fine  and  there  is  very  little 
gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  pale  greenish-white  or  pale  bluish-green. 

The  markings  consist  of  splashes,  smears,  and  blotches  of  pale 
and  dark  brownish-red  with  a  few  defined  spots  and  hair-lines  of 
reddish-black. 

In  size  they  average  about  0*98  by  0-68  inches. 


THE   STRIPED-THROATED   SIVA 

SIVA  STRIGULA  Hodgson 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Head  orange-brown  ; 
upper  plumage  slate-green  ;  below  bright  yellow,  the  chin  pale  yellow 
separated  from  the  breast  by  a  band  of  white  feathers  with  narrow 
crescentic  cross  bars ;  moustachial  streak  and  patch  on  either  side 
of  the  neck  black,  wings  black,  the  first  primaries  edged  with  yellow 
turning  to  orange  near  the  base,  inner  feathers  broadly  marked  with 
grey  on  outer  edge  and  tipped  with  white  ;  a  black  patch  at  base  of 
the  primaries  ;  tail  black,  middle  pair  with  chestnut-red  at  base, 
outer  feathers  edged  and  broadly  tipped  with  yellow. 


60  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

Iris  reddish-brown ;  bill  dark  brown  above,  paler  below ;  tip 
white ;  legs  grey. 

Field  Identification. — A  bird  about  the  size  of  a  Bulbul,  frequenting 
rather  open  forest  or  woodland  (not  conifers)  in  small  parties  or  pairs, 
in  the  spring.  General  colour  yellowish  with  several  narrow  crescentic 
black  cross-bars  on  the  throat.  These  cross-bars  are  characteristic 
of  the  bird. 

Distribution. — The  Striped-throated  Siva  extends  from  Duala  Dhar 
in  the  Kangra  district  of  the  Punjab  Himalayas  to  Assam  and  Yunnan, 
south  through  Burma  to  Siam  and  the  Malay  Peninsula.  This  species 
has  been  divided  into  several  races  and,  in  addition  to  the  typical 
Siva  s.  strigula  of  the  Eastern  Himalayas  from  Nepal  to  Assam,  there 
is  a  western  race,  S.  s.  simlcensis,  with  paler  head,  greyer  back  and  the 
chestnut  on  the  tail  more  restricted.  Another  small  babbler  of  similar 
size  and  habits  is  the  Blue-winged  Siva  (Siva  cyanuroptera)  in  which 
the  head  is  bluish-grey  streaked  with  dark  blue,  back,  wing  coverts 
and  rump  ochraceous,  wings  and  tail  appear  blue  and  are  tipped  with 
white,  throat  and  breast  vinous  grey  merging  into  yellowish-white 
on  belly.  It  is  not  so  widely  distributed,  inhabiting  the  Himalayas, 
Naini  Tal  to  the  Chin  Hills  in  Burma,  breeding  between  3000  and 
8000  feet  and  moving  rather  lower  in  winter.  It  nests  in  thick 
evergreen  forests  of  oak,  pines  and  rhododendrons. 

Habits,  etc. — This  beautiful  bird  breeds  from  7000  to  10,000  feet 
and  possibly  even  12,000  feet  and  in  autumn  most  birds  are  met  with 
between  4000  and  9000  feet.  They  go  about  in  small  parties  hunting 
amongst  the  tops  of  broad  leaves  and  shrubs  for  insects  which  are  their 
principal  food.  There  is  no  song  except  a  three-noted  rather 
melancholy  call  note  uttered  at  fairly  regular  intervals.  In  the 
Eastern  parts  of  the  range  they  are  sometimes  met  with  in  the  pine, 
as  well  as  evergreen  forests.  In  autumn,  when  the  leaves  of  trie 
deciduous  trees  change  colour,  the  yellow  plumage  of  this  Siva  blends 
extraordinarily  well  with  the  leaves,  and  their  subdued  call  notes 
are  reminiscent  of  a  party  of  babblers. 

The  breeding  season  is  May  and  June,  and  the  nest  is  generally 
placed  in  a  bush  or  small  tree,  some  4  to  12  feet  from  the  ground. 
It  is  cup-shaped  of  moss  roots  and  leaves  and  lined  with  roots. 

The  eggs  resemble  a  miniature  Song  Thrush's. 

The  average  size  is  about  0-85  by  0-63  inches. 


THE   RED-BILLED    LEIOTHRIX  61 

THE  RED-BILLED  LEIOTHRIX 
LEIOTHRIX  LUTEA  (Scopoli) 

(Plate  iv,  Fig.  5,  opposite  page  66) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Male  :  The  whole  upper  plumage 
dull  olive-green,  the  throat  and  breast  bright  orange-yellow  ;  remainder 
of  lower  plumage  mixed  olive-green  and  yellowish ;  a  ring  round  the 
eye  extending  to  the  beak  dull  yellowish  ;  the  edges  of  the  wing- 
feathers  are  brightly  variegated  with  yellow,  orange,  crimson,  and 
black  ;  tail  olive-brown,  blackish  at  tip  ;  the  upper  tail-coverts  extend 
two-thirds  of  the  length  of  the  tail  and  terminate  in  a  fine  white  line. 

The  female  is  duller  in  plumage  and  has  no  crimson  on  the  wing. 

Iris  reddish-brown  ;  bill  orange-red,  base  blackish  in  winter ; 
legs  brown. 

The  tail  is  slightly  forked  with  the  feathers  curved  outwards  at 
the  tip. 

Field  Identification. — Himalayan  species  ;  usually  in  parties  in 
undergrowth ;  dull  olive  coloration  ;  coral-red  bill,  yellow  eye-patch 
and  bright  shining  yellow  patch  on  throat  and  breast  are  conspicuous. 

Distribution. — This  species  extends  through  the  Himalayas  and 
eastwards  into  China,  and  southwards  into  Southern  Burma  and 
Siam.  There  are  several  geographical  races,  and  that  inhabiting  the 
Himalayas  from  Nepal  to  Eastern  Assam,  the  Khasias  and  Chin 
Hills  and  in  Arakan  is  L.  1.  callipyga,  while  it  is  replaced  by  L.  I. 
kumarensis  from  Kumaon  to  Simla.  This  last  form  is  a  greyer  tinge 
of  green  with  more  restricted  golden  colour  on  the  crown  and  the 
red  on  the  outer  edge  of  the  primaries  reduced  or  absent.  In  the 
western  Himalayas  it  is  not  very  common,  nor  does  it  occur  except 
at  low  elevations  of  2000  to  5000  feet  in  the  outer  ranges  ;  about 
Darjeeling  it  is  common  from  3400  to  7400  feet.  It  is  a  strictly 
resident  bird.  Of  similar  size  and  habits  is  the  Silver-eared  Mesia, 
Mesia  argentauris,  a  striking  bird  with  a  black  head,  grey  back,  golden 
throat,  and  a  dark  red  spot  on  the  golden-edged  wings.  It  occurs 
from  Garhwal  eastwards  to  Assam. 

A  common  garden  bird  in  Darjeeling  is  the  Yellow-naped  Ixulus 
(Ixulus  flavtcollis),  a  small  olive-brown  bird  with  whitish  under  parts, 
a  dark  brown  crest  and  a  fulvous  nape.  It  is  found  throughout  the 
Himalayas  from  Dharmsala  eastwards,  usually  in  parties  in  trees. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Red-billed  Leiothrix  (or  Pekin  Robin  of  the 
aviculturists  in  England)  is  a  bird  of  the  hill  forests,  found  in  every 
type  of  jungle,  but  by  preference  in  fir  and  pine  forests  with  secondary 
undergrowth.  It  is  a  very  lively,  cheerful  little  bird,  and  except  in  the 
breeding  season  is  eminently  gregarious,  going  about  in  small  parties 
which  hunt  the  undergrowth  for  insects  and  occasionally  move  up 


62  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

into  the  trees.  The  ordinary  call-note  is  tee-tee-tee-tee-tee.  In  the 
breeding  season  the  cock  has  a  delightful  song  of  some  variety  and 
compass,  which  is  sung  from  the  top  of  a  bush  to  the  accompaniment 
of  quivering  wings  and  fluffed-out  feathers. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  early  April  to  September,  the 
majority  of  nests  being  found  in  May  and  June  ;  there  are  probably 
two  broods.  For  breeding,  the  birds  largely  affect  well- watered  and 
jungle-clad  valleys  and  ravines. 

The  nests  are  cups  of  varying  depth  and  solidity,  and  as  a  rule 
they  are  not  well  hidden.  They  are  composed  of  dry  leaves,  moss, 
and  lichen,  some  nests  being  entirely  of  moss,  others  of  bamboo 
leaves,  so  that  there  is  a  good  deal  of  variety  in  their  appearance  ; 
there  is  a  lining  of  fine  black  hair-like  rhizomorphs  of  a  fungus.  The 
site  of  the  nest  is  likewise  somewhat  variable,  though  all  are  placed 
within  10  feet  of  the  ground.  Some  are  suspended  in  a  horizontal 
fork  like  an  Oriole's  nest,  others  in  an  upright  fork  such  as  a  Bulbul 
would  choose  ;  others  again  are  built  between  several  upright  shoots 
like  the  nests  of  the  Reed- Warblers. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  three  eggs. 

The  eggs  are  rather  broad  and  blunt  in  shape,  with  a  hard  and 
close  texture,  and  a  certain  amount  of  gloss.  The  ground-colour 
varies  from  white  to  a  very  delicate  pale  green  or  greenish-blue. 
They  are  speckled,  spotted,  and  blotched,  often  very  boldly,  with 
various  shades  of  red-brown  and  purple,  mingled  with  streaks  and 
clouds  of  neutral  tint  and  pale  lilac.  The  markings  tend  to  form 
a  zone  round  the  broad  end. 

The  eggs  average  about  0-85  by  0-62  inches. 


THE    COMMON    IORA 

/EGITHINA  TIPHIA  (Linnaeus) 

(Plate  xiii,  Fig.  5,  opposite  page  264) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Adult  male  in  full  summer 
plumage  :  whole  of  the  upper  plumage  black,  except  the  rump  which 
is  greenish-yellow,  but  the  head  and  back  are  usually  mixed  with 
yellow  to  some  extent ;  two  white  bars  across  the  wing,  and  the 
quills  narrowly  edged  with  yellow ;  entire  lower  plumage  deep 
yellow,  duller  and  greenish  below  the  breast.  In  winter  the  black 
on  the  body-feathers  is  almost  all  lost,  and  the  yellow  becomes  paler. 

Female  at  all  seasons  :  greenish-yellow  throughout,  yellow  pre- 
dominating on  the  lower  surface  and  green  on  the  upper ;  wings 
dark  greenish-brown  with  greenish-white  edges  to  the  feathers  and  a 
broad  white  bar  across  the  shoulder. 


THE    COMMON    IORA  63 

Iris  yellowish-white ;  bill  slaty-blue,  black  along  oilmen ;  legs 
slaty-blue. 

The  feathers  of  the  rump  are  remarkably  soft  and  copious. 

Field  Identification. — A  quiet  little  greenish-yellow  bird,  with 
dark  wings  and  tail  and  a  broad  white  bar  across  the  wing,  and  in 
some  cases  much  black  on  the  upper  parts,  which  creeps  about  in 
garden  trees.  Has  a  curious  breeding  flight. 

Marshall's  lora  (/Egithina  nigrolutea),  common  in  lower  Con- 
tinental India  from  Delhi  to  Khandesh,  may  be  distinguished  by  the 
bright  golden  collar  and  large  amount  of  white  in  the  wings  and  tail. 

Distribution. — The  lora  is  found  over  a  very  wide  range  of  country 
throughout  India,  east  of  a  line  through  the  head  of  the  Gulf  of 
Cambay  to  Mount  Aboo  and  Gurdaspur,  Ceylon,  Burma,  Siam,  and 
the  Malay  Peninsula  to  Borneo.  It  is  divided  into  several  races,  of 
which  three  occur  in  India  proper,  JR.  t.  multicolor,  the  darkest  race 
with  most  black  in  the  plumage,  is  confined  to  Ceylon  and 
Rameswaram  Island.  JE.  t.  humei,  an  intermediate  race  which  also 
grades  into  Marshall's  lora,  occupies  the  whole  of  India  south  of  a 
line  roughly  from  Mount  Aboo  through  Central  India  to  Orissa. 
The  typical  race  occupies  the  rest  of  the  Indian  range  merging  into 
/E.  t.  septentrionalis  in  the  Punjab.  In  this  the  black  on  the  upper 
parts  of  the  male  in  breeding  plumage  is  largely  obsolete,  diminishing 
in  extent  from  east  to  west.  All  races  are  found  in  the  plains  and 
lower  hills  up  to  about  3000  feet,  or  locally  even  to  5500  feet,  and 
are  resident  birds. 

The  lively  and  acrobatic  Red-tailed  Minla  (Minla  ignotinctd) 
found  in  the  Eastern  Himalayas  and  the  hills  of  Assam  is  fairly  well 
known  at  Darjeeling.  The  black  and  white  head,  brown  back  and 
yellow  under  parts  are  well  set  off  by  brilliant  scarlet  in  the  wings 
and  tail. 

Habits,  etc. — The  lora  is  a  familiar  garden  bird  in  the  greater 
part  of  India,  frequenting  the  outskirts  of  villages  and  cultivation 
and  the  edges  of  forests  and  scrub -jungle.  It  is  usually  found  in 
pairs,  although  occasionally  two  or  three  may  be  hunting  in  the 
same  tree  for  the  insects  that  form  their  food.  It  has  a  variety  of 
notes,  of  which  the  most  striking  is  a  long-drawn  wail  we-e-e-e-tu, 
with  a  sudden  drop  of  an  octave  on  the  last  syllable. 

In  the  breeding  season  the  lora  has  a  striking  display  in  which 
it  flies  up  into  the  air  and  then  spirals  down  to  its  perch  again,  with 
all  the  feathers,  especially  those  of  the  rump,  spread  out  until  it  looks 
almost  like  a  ball ;  while  descending  it  utters  a  strange  protracted 
sibilant  sound,  recalling  the  note  of  a  frog  or  cricket.  Arrived  on 
the  perch  it  spreads  and  flirts  the  tail  like  a  little  Peacock,  drooping 
its  wings  and  still  uttering  the  sibilant  note.  Then,  too,  the  rump- 
feathers  are  arched  and  fluffed-out. 


64  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

The  breeding  season  is  from  April  to  July. 

The  nest  is  a  very  neat,  delicate  cup  of  fine,  soft  grasses,  well 
plastered  externally  with  cobwebs  and  spiders'  cocoons.  It  is  placed 
in  a  fork,  either  horizontal  or  vertical,  of  a  bush  or  tree  at  heights 
from  3  to  30  feet  from  the  ground. 

The  clutch  varies  from  two  to  four  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  moderately  broad  oval,  slightly  pointed  towards 
the  smaller  end,  fine  in  texture  but  with  practically  no  gloss.  The 
ground-colour  is  pale  creamy  or  greyish  white,  with  streaky 
longitudinal  markings  of  grey  and  neutral  tint,  mostly  at  the  broad 
end.  Some  eggs  are  erythristic  in  character  with  the  ground-colour 
pinkish  and  the  markings  reddish. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-70  by  0*55  inches. 


.  JERDON'S    CHLOROPSIS 
CHLOROPSIS  JERDONI  (Blyth) 

(Plate  v,  Fig.  3,  opposite  page  88) 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Male,  entire  plumage  bright 
green  except  for  the  following  markings :  a  black  mask  extending 
from  the  nostril  to  the  eye  and  thence  to  the  lower  throat  broken 
by  a  broad  moustachial  streak  of  bright  purplish-blue  ;  forehead 
and  a  broad  band  behind  the  black  mask  greenish-yellow ;  a  patch 
of  very  bright  malachite-blue  by  the  bend  of  the  wing. 

The  female  resembles  the  male,  except  that  the  black  mask  is 
replaced  by  pale  bluish-green  with  a  bright  greenish-blue  moustachial 
streak. 

Iris  brown  ;   bill  black  ;   legs  pale  blue. 

Field  Identification. — An  active  arboreal  bird,  particularly  fond  of 
feeding  at  the  parasitic  Loranthus  flowers.  Bright  green,  a  black 
throat-patch  broken  by  a  purplish-blue  moustachial  streak  in  the 
male,  a  bluish-green  throat-patch  in  the  female.  In  both  sexes  the 
throat-patch  is  faintly  bordered  with  yellow. 

Distribution. — The  genus  Chloropsis,  for  which  there  is  no  English 
name,  except  the  somewhat  misleading  one  of  the  Green  Bulbuls, 
contains  a  number  of  species  of  bright  plumage,  in  which  green 
predominates.  They  are  found  in  India,  Ceylon,  Burma,  Siam,  the 
Malays,  and  China.  Except  for  a  large  area  in  North-western  India 
at  least  one  form  is  found  in  every  part  of  India,  though  no  one  form 
is  predominantly  familiar.  To  represent  the  genus,  which  is  well 
known,  I  have  selected  Jerdon's  Chloropsis.  This  occurs  throughout 
the  Peninsula  of  India  from  Sitapur,  Fyzabad,  and  Basti  in  the  north, 
Baroda  and  the  Panch  Mahals  on  the  west,  the  Rajmahal  Hills  and 


JERDON'S    CHLOROPSIS  65 

Midnapore   on   the   east,  down  to  and  including   Ceylon.     It  is  a 
strictly  resident  species. 

Two  other  species  occur  in  India.  The  Gold-fronted  Chloropsis 
(Chloropsis  aurifrons)  may  be  distinguished  by  the  orange-yellow 
crown  and  by  having  the  throat  between  the  blue  moustachial  streaks 
also  blue.  It  is  widely  distributed  along  the  Outer  Himalayas  from 
the  Jumna  eastwards,  in  the  Chota  Nagpur  area,  and  in  Southern 
India  and  Ceylon.  The  Orange-bellied  Chloropsis  (Chloropsis 
hardwickii),  which  has  orange  under  parts  and  most  of  the  wing  dark 
blue,  occurs  along  the  outer  Central  and  Eastern  Himalayas. 

Habits. — All  members  of  this  genus  have  the  same  habits.  They 
are  arboreal  birds,  keeping  as  a  rule  to  the  tops  of  trees  where  they 
very  often  frequent  the  bunches  of  the  parasitic  Loranthus,  but  they 
also  occasionally  descend  into  low  bush  growth  and  even  tall  grass. 
Many  of  them  prefer  heavy  forest,  but  Jerdon's  Chloropsis  is  generally 
found  in  open  country,  in  gardens,  orchards,  and  groves,  or  in  the  more 
open  patches  of  forest.  It  lives  in  pairs  which  often  join  the  mixed 
hunting  parties  and  is  a  very  active  and  restless  bird.  It  is  also  some- 
thing of  a  bully  and  drives  other  birds  away  from  the  flowers  of  the 
Coral-tree  at  which  it  is  a  regular  attendant.  At  the  nest  it  is  very 
watchful  and  noisy  and  indeed  often  betrays  the  secret  of  its 
whereabouts  by  over-anxiety. 

A  particular  characteristic  of  Jerdon's  Chloropsis,  and  indeed  of 
other  members  of  the  group,  is  a  remarkable  proficiency  in  mimicry. 
It  is  said  to  have  a  distinct  call  of  its  own  of  several  notes,  but  this  is 
merely  an  item  in  a  very  varied  repertory  of  other  bird  call-notes  in 
which  those  of  the  Drongos  hold  a  leading  place. 

The  food  consists  of  fruit,  seeds,  insects,  and  the  nectar  of  various 
flowers. 

The  members  of  this  genus  are  favourite  cage  birds  in  the  East 
and  have  been  successfully  kept  in  aviaries  in  Europe. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  April  to  August. 

The  nest  is  a  small,  rather  shallow  cup  composed  of  fine  roots, 
grasses,  and  tamarisk  stems  without  lining,  but  covered  exteriorly 
with  soft  vegetable  fibres.  It  is  placed  on  a  bough  or  in  a  fork  of 
the  end  twigs  of  a  branch  of  a  tree  at  heights  of  15  to  24  feet  from 
the  ground. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  rather  elongated  oval,  fine  and  delicate  in  texture 
with  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  white  or  creamy-white, 
sparingly  marked  with  spots,  specks,  blotches,  and  hair-lines  of 
blackish,  reddish,  or  purplish-brown,  with  a  tendency  for  the  markings 
to  collect  at  the  broad  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-85  by  0-60  inches. 


66 


POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 


THE  BLACK  BULBUL 

MlCROSCELIS   PSAROIDES   (Vigors) 

Description. — Length  10  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Ashy-grey  through- 
out, darker  above,  and  albescent  below  the  abdomen ;  a  loose 
untidy  crest  black,  with  black  marks  at  the  base  of  the  beak  and 
encircling  the  ear-coverts. 

Iris  dark  brown ;  bill  and  legs  bright  coral-red ;  claws  horny- 
brown. 

Tail  bluntly  forked,  with  the  outer  feathers  slightly  curved 
outwards. 


FIG.  io— Black  Bulbul     (J  nat.  size) 

Field  Identification. — A  dark-looking  ashy-grey  bird  with  coral- 
red  beak  and  black  straggling  crest ;  blunt  forked  tail  creates  a  rough 
resemblance  to  a  King-Crow :  a  bold,  noisy  bird  with  unpleasant 
squeaky  calls.  Purely  arboreal  in  habits. 

Distribution. — The  genus  Microscelis  is  of  somewhat  wide  distribu- 
tion from  India  to  Japan,  but  only  one  species  is  found  within  the 
Indian  Empire.  This  is  divided  into  several  races,  of  which  two  come 
within  the  area  treated  in  this  work.  Both  are  mountain  forms. 
The  typical  race  is  Himalayan,  extending  from  Chitral  and  Hazara  to 
Bhutan ;  the  exact  limits  of  this  range  are  not  fully  known,  but  on 
the  west  it  has  been  observed  at  Kohat  in  winter,  and  on  the  east  it 
apparently  extends  into  Assam.  In  Southern  India  south  of  Matheran 


THE   BLACK   BULBUL  67 

the  race  M.  ps.  ganeesa,  distinguished  by  the  absence  of  the  black 
line  round  the  ear-coverts,  breeds  in  the  various  ranges  at  elevations 
over  4000  feet.  In  Ceylon  there  is  a  large  billed  race  M.  p.  humii. 

In  "the  Western  Himalayas  it  breeds  from  about  4000  to  7000 
feet ;  in  the  Eastern  Himalayas  from  2000  feet ;  in  both  areas  a  small 
number  breed  up  to  10,000  feet.  While  not  migratory  in  the  true 
sense  of  the  word,  flocks  of  this  Bulbul  wander  a  good  deal  in  the 
non-breeding  season  and  may  then  be  found  in  the  plain  areas 
contiguous  to  the  mountains  in  which  they  breed,  on  occasion 
wandering  even  farther  afield. 

The  Rufous-bellied  Bulbul  (Ixos  mcclellandii)  is  found  along  the 
Himalayas  from  Naini  Tal  eastwards,  and  in  the  Assam  Hills  and 
Burma.  It  has  the  general  build  of  a  Black  Bulbul  with  a  similar 
crest  but  is  bright  olive  green  above  and  rufous  below.  The  throat  is 
untidily  streaked  with  white.  Another  Bulbul  which  is  not  uncommon 
but  rather  local  is  the  Himalayan  Brown-eared  Ixos  flavala.  It 
extends  along  the  Himalayas  from  Mussoorie  into  Assam  and  North 
Burma.  The  general  colour  is  grey,  whiter  below,  and  wings  edged 
with  yellowish- white. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Black  Bulbul  is  a  bird  of  high  forest  trees, 
and  except  when  breeding  it  is  found  in  parties  and  large  flocks, 
consisting  sometimes  of  as  many  as  a  hundred  individuals.  These 
never  descend  to  the  ground,  and  seldom  even  to  the  undergrowth,  but 
keep  to  the  tops  of  the  trees  and  fly  from  one  to  the  other  in  loose, 
irregular  order.  They  are  very  restless  and  seldom  remain  long  in  one 
place.  Owing  to  its  weak  feet  this  Bulbul  does  not  climb  or  hop  about 
the  boughs,  but  as  compensation  it  is  certainly  one  of  the  finest  flyers 
in  the  family,  being  both  swift  and  agile  on  the  wing.  In  consequence 
this  Bulbul  is  often  mistaken  for  a  Drongo  by  the  inexperienced. 

It  is  a  very  noisy,  bold  bird,  and  the  whereabouts  of  a  party  is 
invariably  revealed  by  the  noise  that  they  make  ;  their  calls  are  in 
consequence  amongst  the  familiar  bird  sounds  of  the  hills.  A 
common  note  is  a  long-drawn  nasal  weenk,  resembling  the  distant 
squeal  of  a  pig.  There  is  also  a  pretty  whistle  which  may  be 
syllabilised  as  whew-whe  or  whee-whe,  something  like  the  musical 
creaking  of  a  rusty  gate-hinge  ;  this  is  often  preceded  by  a  couple 
of  notes  squeaky-squeaky,  very  similar  to  a  call  of  the  Drongo. 
Another  less  common  note  is  geagluck. 

The  food  consists  mostly  of  berries  of  various  shrubs  and  trees, 
but  insects  are  also  eaten ;  mulberries  and  bukain  berries  are 
particularly  attractive  to  them.  In  the  evening  the  birds  may  often 
be  seen  fly-catching  from  the  tops  of  trees.  They  are  said  also  to 
sip  nectar  from  flowers,  and  certain  it  is  that  they  may  often  be  seen 
at  the  flowers  of  the  rhododendron  and  other  blossom-bearing  trees, 
but  it  is  more  probable  that  they  are  taking  insects  from  the  cups. 


68  POPULAR   HANDBOOK    OP   INDIAN   BIRDS 

During  the  breeding  season,  from  April  to  the  end  of  June,  the 
pairs  are  very  affectionate,  feeding  together,  and  the  male  remains  in 
the  vicinity  while  the  female  is  on  the  nest. 

The  nest  is  a  rather  neat  cup  of  coarse-bladed  grass,  dry  leaves 
and  moss,  lined  with  fine  grass  stems  or  pine-needles  and  moss  roots, 
and  bound  exteriorly  with  spiders'  webs.  It  is  placed  in  a  fork  of  a 
tree  often  at  a  considerable  height  from  the  ground. 

Three  or  four  eggs  comprise  the  clutch  in  the  Himalayas,  and  two 
in  the  NiJgiris. 

The  egg  is  a  rather  long  oval,  a  good  deal  pointed  towards  the 
small  end,  fine  in  texture  with  little  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  a 
delicate  pinkish-white,  varying  in  depth  of  colour,  and  it  is  profusely 
speckled,  spotted,  blotched,  or  clouded  with  various  shades  of  red, 
brownish-red,  and  purple  ;  there  is  a  tendency  for  a  heavy  zone  or 
cap  of  markings  at  the  broad  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  1-05  by  0*75  inches. 


THE  RED-VENTED  BULBUL 

MOLPASTES  CAFER  (Linnaeus) 
(Plate  x,  Fig.  2,  opposite  page  198) 

Description. — Length  8  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  whole  head 
and  throat  glossy-black ;  the  whole  body  and  closed  wings  brown, 
the  feathers  of  the  wings,  upper  back,  and  breast  edged  with  whitish, 
giving  a  scaled  appearance,  the  lower  abdomen  and  upper  tail-coverts 
so  pale  as  to  be  almost  white  ;  tail  brown  at  base,  darkening  till  it  is 
almost  black  before  the  white  tips  of  the  feathers  ;  a  crimson  patch 
under  the  tail. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Field  Identification. — Throughout  India.  A  common  garden  bird, 
cheerful  and  rather  noisy  in  demeanour ;  earthy-brown  in  colour 
with  a  black,  slightly  crested  head,  white-tipped  tail,  and  a  bright  red 
patch  under  the  base  of  the  latter. 

Distribution. — The  Common  or  Red-vented  Bulbul  is  a  very 
widely-spread  species,  occurring  throughout  the  Indian  Empire 
and  extending  to  the  east  as  far  as  China.  With  such  a  large 
and  varied  range  it  is  inevitably  divided  up  into  several  races 
which  with  their  intermediate  forms  and  areas  are  somewhat  difficult 
to  define ;  but  the  main  difficulties  occur  in  the  forms  that  are 
found  east  of  Assam.  In  the  area  covered  by  this  work  the  division 
of  the  races  is  easily  understood  so  long  as  it  is  recognised  that  the 
boundaries  of  the  races  about  to  be  mentioned  are  not  clearly  defined, 


THE    RED-VENTED    BULBUL  69 

and  in  the  intermediate  areas  between  them  birds  will  be  found  which 
cannot  be  clearly  referred  to  one  or  other  form. 

Along  the  Himalayas  together  with  the  plains  country  about 
their  base,  we  have  an  Eastern  and  a  Western  form  meeting 
somewhere  about  Kumaon  and  Western  Nepal.  The  Western 
bird  is  M.  c.  intermediust  found  through  Kashmir  and  the  extreme 
North-west  from  Kohat  down  to  about  the  Salt  Range  and  along 
the  Himalayas  to  Kumaon ;  its  range  steadily  narrows  as  it  pro- 
gresses eastwards  taking  in  less  and  less  plains  country.  It  is  found 
commonly  up  to  about  4000  feet  and  in  smaller  numbers  a  little 
higher  to  5500  feet. 

The  East  Himalayan  bird  from  Nepal  to  Assam  is  M.  c.  bengalensis, 
and  this,  while  not  occurring  so  high  in  the  hills,  only  exceptionally 
above  4500  feet,  has  a  wider  distribution  in  the  plains  through  the 
Eastern  United  Provinces,  Northern  Bihar,  Eastern  Bengal,  up  to 
North-west  Cachar  and  Eastern  Assam.  South  of  the  area  occupied 
by  these  two  forms,  M.  c.  pallidus  extends  on  the  west  down  to 
Ahmednagar  and  Khandesh,  and  M.  c.  saturatus  on  the  east  down  to 
the  Godavari.  Southern  India  and  Ceylon  are  occupied  by  M.  c. 
cafer,  which,  while  occurring  normally  up  to  about  2000  feet,  follows 
the  progress  of  man  higher  into  the  hills,  even  up  to  8000  ftet  in  the 
Nilgiris. 

These  races  are  distinguished  by  the  amount  of  black  in  the  plumage 
and  also  in  some  cases  by  size.  A  strictly  resident  species. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Red-vented  Bulbul  is,  in  its  various  local  forms, 
one  of  the  best-known  birds  of  India,  as  it  is  very  common  and  very 
attached  to  the  haunts  of  man,  being  essentially  a  garden  bird.  It 
is,  however,  found  in  all  types  of  country,  though  by  preference 
it  eschews  both  heavy  forest  and  barren  plains.  It  is  arboreal,  the 
short  weak  legs  not  being  adapted  to  progression  on  the  ground 
though  the  bird  sometimes  descends  to  it  to  pick  up  food.  The 
flight  is  quick  and  strong,  though  seldom  sustained  for  any  distance, 
and  the  beat  of  the  wings  is  distinctly  audible. 

The  Bulbul  is  usually  met  with  in  pairs  and  has  a  very  evident 
affection  for  its  mate  ;  this  fact,  together  with  its  sprightly  demeanour, 
boldness,  handsome  coloration,  and  cheerful  call-notes,  contributes 
to  make  it  a  general  favourite.  It  is  one  of  the  birds  that  everyone 
notices,  Indian  and  European  alike.  Indians  frequently  tame  it 
and  carry  it  about  the  bazaars,  tied  with  a  string  to  the  finger  or  to 
a  little  crutched  perch,  which  is  often  made  of  precious  metals  or 
jade ;  while  there  are  few  Europeans  who  do  not  recollect  Eha's 
immortal  phrase  anent  the  red  patch  in  the  seat  of  its  trousers. 

Occasionally  small  parties  of  this  Bulbul  are  met  with,  and 
numbers  often  collect  together  at  a  spot  where  some  particular 
food  is  plentiful  or  for  the  purpose  of  roosting  ;  but  normally  the  bird 

E2 


70  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

cannot  be  described  as  gregarious.  At  times,  generally  in  the  evenings, 
Bulbuls  indulge  in  "  fly-catching,"  sitting  on  the  top  of  a  bush  or  small 
tree,  launching  out  continuously  for  short  flights  in  the  air,  and 
returning  again  and  again  to  the  same  perch. 

But  our  friend  has  two  vices.  He  is  very  quarrelsome  and  a 
plucky  fighter,  and  this  is  part  of  the  secret  of  his  attraction  as  a  pet 
for  his  Indian  owners  ;  for  one  of  the  essential  ingredients  of  a  pet 
in  the  East  is  that  it  should  be  a  vehicle  for  gambling,  and  the  owner 
of  a  good-fighting  Bulbul  may  pocket  many  a  small  bet.  Our  friend 
is  also  apt  to  be  destructive  in  the  garden,  damaging  fruit  and  flowers 
and  spoiling  many  a  promising  row  of  peas ;  though  the  unseen 
good  that  he  does  in  the  way  of  keeping  down  insect  pests  probably 
outweighs  this  more  obvious  damage. 

There  is  something  extremely  cheerful  and  attractive  about  the 
voice  of  this  Bulbul,  though  he  has  only  one  or  two  call-notes  and 
no  song.  Yet  for«all  time  he  will  be  credited  with  the  reputation  of 
a  famous  songster  owing  to  the  association  in  Persian  literature 
between  the  song  of  the  Bulbul,  and  the  scent  of  roses,  and  the 
amorous  delights  of  Persian  gardens.  The  Bulbul  of  Persian  literature 
is,  however,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  another  bird,  a  race  of  the  Nightingale 
(Daulias  philomela  africand). 

The  breeding  season  lasts,  according  to  locality,  from  February 
to  August,  but  most  nests  will  be  found  in  May  and  June.  Two 
broods  are  probably  reared. 

The  nest  is  a  neat  cup  composed  of  dry  grass  stems  and  the  finest 
twigs  and  shoots  of  tamarisk,  lined  with  fine  roots  and  horse-hairs, 
and  intermingled  with  dry  leaves  and  scraps  of  lichen.  It  is  placed 
usually  in  a  bush  or  shrub  between  4  and  10  feet  above  the  ground, 
but  is  often  found  in  a  variety  of  unusual  situations  as  high  as  40  feet. 

Two  to  four  eggs  are  laid. 

The  egg  is  a  rather  long  oval  slightly  compressed  towards  the 
smaller  end  ;  the  texture  is  smooth  and  fragile  and  there  is  very 
little  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  pinkish-  or  reddish- white,  marked 
with  red,  brownish-red,  and  purplish-red,  with  secondary  markings  of 
pale  inky-purple.  The  markings  take  every  conceivable  form  of 
spot,  speck,  blotch,  and  streak,  and  are  usually  so  thick  as  practically 
to  conceal  the  paler  ground,  but  in  many  eggs  they  collect  into  zones 
and  caps  about  the  broad  end. 

The  average  measurement  is  about  0-90  by  0*65  inches. 


THE    WHITE-CHEEKED    BULBUL 


THE  WHITE-CHEEKED  BULBUL 
MOLPASTES  LEUCOGENYS  (Gray) 

Description. — Length  8  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Forehead  and  a 
long  crest,  curved  forwards,  hair  brown  narrowly  edged  with  white ; 
a  patch  round  the  eye  to  the  beak,  chin,  and  throat,  and  portions  of 
the  side  of  the  neck  black ;  a  conspicuous  white  patch  on  the  ear- 
coverts  ;  the  whole  btfdy  and  wings  olive-brown,  darker  and  greener 
above  and  paler  below,  becoming  whitish  on  the  lower  abdomen  ; 
tail  brown  on  the  basal  half,  blackish  on  the  terminal  half,  all  feathers 
except  the  central  pair  Broadly  tipped  with  white  ;  a  bright  sulphur- 
yellow  patch  below  the  base  of  the  tail. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Field  Identification. — A  sprightly,  cheerful  bird  found  in  gardens 
and  open  country  ;  appears  dull  brown  with  a  conspicuous  crest, 
black  markings  about  the  head,  and  a  large  white  patch  on  the  face 
and  a  patch  of  yellow  under  the  tail.  In  the  typical  race  the  crest 
is  long  and  curved  forwards 
over  the  beak  like  Punch's 
cap.  Usually  in  pairs. 

Distribution.— The  White- 
cheeked  Bulbul  extends 
throughout  the  Himalayas 
from  Afghanistan  to  the  hills 
of  Assam,  north  of  the 
Brahmaputra  River,  and  in 
the  north-west  of  the  Pen- 
insula down  as  far  as  Central 
India ;  out  of  India  it  extends 
west  to  Mesopotamia.  There 
are  three  races  of  the  bird  in 
India.  The  typical  form  with 
the  highly-developed  "  Punch 
cap  "  crest  is  confined  to  the 
Himalayas  where  it  occurs 

from  the  foot-hills  at  about  2000  up  to  6000  feet  in  the  east 
and  from  3000  to  9000  feet  in  the  west.  Through  the  plains  of 
the  Punjab  south  of  the  Salt  Range,  Sind,  Cutch,  Guzerat, 
Rajputana,  the  North-western  Provinces  south  to  Etawah,  and  Central 
India  as  far  east  as  Jhansi,  Saugor,  and  Hoshungabad,  the  typical 
race  is  replaced  by  M.  I.  leucotis  in  which  the  crest  is  short  and  black, 
the  under  tail-coverts  saffron-yellow,  and  the  olive-brown  of  the  upper 
parts  is  without  the  greenish  tinge  found  in  M.  I.  leucogenys  ;  the  bill 
is  stouter  and  blunter  in  this  form.  A  third  race,  M.  I.  humii,  is  found 


FIG.  1 1 — Head  of  White-cheeked  Bulbul 
(]  1  nat.  size) 

2OOO     Up    tO 


7*  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

connecting  these  two  races  in  the  Salt  Range  and  the  elevated  plateau 
north  of  it  about  Rawal  Pindi  and  Campbellpur,  and  west  of  this  to 
Bannu  and  Kohat.  This  is  a  truly  intermediate  form,  the  crest  in 
colour  and  size  and  the  bill  in  shape  being  intermediate  between 
those  of  M.  1.  leucogenys  and  M.  /.  leucotis. 

Habits,  etc. — Throughout  its  range  and  under  its  different  names 
the  White-cheeked  Bulbul  has  the  same  characteristics ;  it  is  a  bird 
of  open  country  not  of  forest,  a  dweller  amongst  bushes  rather  than 
a  bird  of  the  trees,  a  familiar  and  cheerful  companion  by  the%  paths 
of  man.  In  the  Himalayas  it  is  one  of  the  conspicuous  birds  of 
the  hill  stations,  coming  freely  into  gardens  and  disporting  itself  on 
the  open  spaces  that  fringe  the  roads ;  it  is  common  round  the  hill 
villages  with  their  cultivation.  But  in  Kashmir  its  sociability  reaches 
its  apex ;  there  it  comes  freely  into  verandahs  and  rooms,  and  hops 
about  in  the  house-boats  with  its  cheery  note  and  quaintly-cocked 
crest,  suspecting  no  harm  and  receiving  none ;  and  many  a  picnic 
party  on  the  shores  of  the  Dal  Lake  in  the  historic  gardens  of 
Shalimar  and  Nishat  Bagh  have  found  their  number  added  to 
by  a  pair  of  Bulbuls  who  have  hopped  about  their  table-cloth  and 
gratefully  swallowed  the  crumbs  of  cake  thrown  to  them. 

While  not  in  any  true  sense  a  migrant,  this  Bulbul  is  subject 
to  a  certain  amount  of  local  movement.  In  the  hills,  while  the 
majority  are  strictly  stationary,  a  small  proportion  move  down  a 
little  from  their  breeding  zone  in  the  winter;  and  in  the  plains 
leucotis  is  known  to  shift  its  quarters  according  to  season,  though 
usually  not  to  any  great  distance. 

These  Bulbuls  are  generally  met  with  in  pairs  or  small  parties  of 
five  or  six  individuals,  but  occasionally  numbers  are  attracted  together 
into  a  small  area  by  the  abundance  of  some  special  food-supply. 
They  are  very  lively  birds,  incessantly  bowing  and  posturing  oh 
the  summit  of  a  bush  or  flying  from  tree  to  tree  ;  and  as  they  do  so 
they  keep  on  uttering  their  cheery  call  Quick-a  drink  with  you,  which 
is  a  pleasant  and  welcome  sound  in  a  land  where  melodious  bird-voices 
are  scarce,  and  a  sentiment  that  aptly  fits  the  jovial  roysterer  that 
utters  it.  For  the  Bulbul  is  a  jovial  soul  and  companionable,  ready 
for  the  fun  of  the  day,  whether  it  be  a  plentiful  hatch  of  flying-ants 
to  chase  and  devour,  or  a  hapless  sun-dazed  owl  to  bully  and  torment. 

It  feeds  chiefly  on  insects  and  fruits.  It  is  often  seen  on  the 
ground  collecting  ants,  grubs,  beetles,  and  the  like,  and  in  the  evenings 
it  has  a  habit  of  flying  into  the  air  like  a  clumsy  Flycatcher  in  pursuit 
of  insects.  Of  fruits  it  devours  many  kinds  ;  in  the  hills  the  Berberis, 
in  the  plains  the  Ber  and  the  Boquain,  furnish  it  with  a  plentiful 
supply  of  berries  ;  and  a  row  of  green  peas  frequently  suffers  badly 
from  its  attentions. 

Attention  must  be  drawn  to  the  fact  that  these  Yellow-vented 


THE    WHITE-CHEEKED    BULBUL  73 

Bulbuls  hybridise  frequently  in  a  wild  state  with  the  Red-vented 
Bulbuls  ;  a  fine  series  of  these  hybrids  were  collected  by  the  late 
Major  Whitehead  at  Kohat,  and  other  cases  have  been  observed  at 
Rawal  Pindi,  Jhang,  and  Karachi. 

The  breeding  season  commences  both  in  the  hills  and  plains 
towards  the  end  of  March  and  continues  until  August,  though  few 
nests  will  be  found  after  June.  Apparently  two  or  more  broods  are 
reared  in  the  year. 

The  nest  is  a  well-constructed  cup,  light  and  fragile  in  appearance 
but  strong  ;  it  is  composed  of  fine  dry  stems  of  herbaceous  plants, 
generally  rather  rough  in  texture,  mixed  with  dry  grass  stalks  and 
shreds  of  vegetable  fibres  ;  there  is  a  neat  lining  of  some  finer  material, 
dry  grass  stems  or  grass  roots  for  preference.  The  usual  situation  is 
in  some  thick  bush  at  a  height  of  4  to  6  feet  from  the  ground,  but  it 
is  occasionally  built  in  trees  at  a  greater  height  than  this. 

The  eggs  are  somewhat  variable  in  shape,  size,  and  colour. 
Typically  they  are  a  rather  long  oval,  somewhat  pointed  at  one  end ;  the 
ground-colour  is  pinkish-  or  reddish-white  with  little  or  no  gloss,  thickly 
speckled,  freckled,  streaked,  or  blotched  with  red  of  various  shades,  with, 
in  addition,  tiny  spots  and  clouds  of  underlying  pale  inky-purple. 

They  average  about  0-88  by  0*65  inches  in  size,  the  eggs  of  M.  L 
leucotis  being  slightly  smaller  than  those  of  M.  L  leucogenys. 


THE   RED-WHISKERED   BULBUL 

OTOCOMPSA  JOCOSA  (Linnaeus) 
(Plate  xiv,  Fig.  3,  opposite  page  286) 

Description. — Length  8  inches.  Sexes  alike.  A  conspicuous 
white  patch  on  the  sides  of  the  face,  above  which  is  a  small  crimson 
tuft  springing  from  the  lower  eyelid  ;  crest,  top,  and  sides  of  the  head 
and  a  narrow  line  below  the  white  patch  black,  merging  into  a  broad 
blackish-brown  gorget,  which  is  interrupted  in  the  centre  by  the  white 
of  the  breast ;  remainder  of  upper  plumage  brown,  darker  on  the 
wings  and  tail,  the  latter  tipped  with  white  except  on  the  central 
pair  of  feathers ;  lower  plumage  white,  washed  with  brown  on  the 
sides  of  the  body  ;  a  crimson  patch  under  the  base  of  the  tail. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Field  Identification. — A  sprightly  and  common  garden  bird; 
appears  dark  brown  above,  white  below,  with  a  white  patch  on  the 
cheeks,  and  a  broken  gorget  across  the  breast ;  a  crimson  tuft  below 
the  eye,  and  a  similar  patch  of  colour  below  the  tail. 

Distribution. — The    Red-whiskered    Bulbul    is    another    of   those 


74  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

common  species  which  have  a  wide  distribution  from  India  to 
China.  It  is,  however,  local  and  scarce  in  some  parts  of  its  range. 
Within  our  area  there  are  five  races.  Three  have  white  tips  to  the 
tail-feathers.  These  are  the  typical  race,  large  and  dark,  which 
extends  from  outside  India  into  the  Duars  and  Sikkim  foot-hills : 
O.  j.  provincialis^  a  paler  form  found  in  the  United  Provinces,  the 
valley  of  Nepal  and  Bihar  ;  and  O.  j.  emeria,  a  small  dark  form,  which 
extends  from  Lower  Bengal  to  Madras  and  Gingee.  The  other  two 
races  lack  the  white  tips  in  the  tail.  O.  j.  abuensis,  found  at  tylount 
Aboo  and  in  Rajputana,  is  extremely  pale.  O.  j.  fuscicaudata,  a 
darker  bird  with  the  gorget  unbroken,  extends  from  the  Tapti  to 
Cape  Comorin  and  Salem  district,  and  also  into  the  Central 
Provinces.  This  Bulbul  breeds  up  to  an  elevation  of  7000  feet ; 
but  on  the  whole  the  northern  race  is  more  of  a  plains  bird,  while 
the  southern  prefers  the  hills.  Both,  however,  are  strictly  resident. 
The  Black-crested  Yellow  Bulbul,  Otocompsa  flaviventrts,  is  found 
along  the  Himalayas  from  the  Sutlej  Valley  eastward  into  Assam 
and  Burma,  and  south  to  the  Central  Provinces.  It  is  readily 
distinguished  by  the  black  head  and  yellow  breast. 

HabitSy  etc. — The  Red-whiskered  Bulbuls  have  very  much  the 
same  habits  as  the  Red-vented  Bulbuls,  avoiding  thick  forest  and 
preferring  the  haunts  of  men,  gardens,  bamboo  clumps,  orchards, 
cultivation,  low  scrub-jungle,  and  the  neighbourhood  of  villages.  They 
are  very  cheerful,  lively  birds  with  much  the  same  calls  as  the  Red- 
vented  Bulbuls  but  louder  and  more  musical  in  tone.  Where  they  occur 
they  are  often  extremely  abundant.  In  the  Nilgiris  and  in  the  hill 
stations  of  the  Bombay  Presidency  they  are  amongst  the  commonest 
birds  and  familiar  to  everyone.  In  Port  Blair,  Andaman  Islands, 
this  Bulbul  is  common  and  extremely  tame  and  takes  the  place  to 
some  extent  of  the  house  sparrow,  a  bird  not  found  in  the  Andamans. 
The  flight  is  strong  and  well  sustained,  but  slow  and  jerky  in  character. 

Their  diet  is  both  insectivorous  and  vegetarian ;  they  are 
particularly  fond  of  fruit,  attacking  the  larger  kinds  while  immature, 
and  the  smaller  when  ripe,  and  as  numbers  often  collect  to  the  feast 
they  are  responsible  for  a  good  deal  of  damage. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  February  to  May.  The  nest  is  cup- 
shaped,  loosely  but  strongly  built  of  grass  bents,  roots,  fibres,  and 
thin  stalks,  and  is  lined  with  finer  grass  stems  and  roots  ;  a  certain 
amount  of  dry  leaves  and  ferns  are  worked  into  the  bottom  and  are 
characteristic  of  the  nests  of  this  species.  They  are  placed  in  bushes 
at  heights  below  6  feet  from  the  ground. 

Three  or  four  eggs  are  usually  laid  in  the  north  and  two  or  three 
eggs  in  the  south. 

The  egg  is  a  broad,  somewhat  lengthened  oval,  fine  in  texture 
with  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  pinkish-  or  reddish-white, 


THE   YELLOW-BROWED    BULBUL  75 

very  thickly  freckled,  mottled,  streaked,  and  blotched  with  red  of 
various  shades,  and  a  few  secondary  markings  of  pale  inky-purple  ; 
there  is  a  tendency  for  the  markings  to  collect  at  the  broad  end. 
The  eggs  measure  about  0-85  by  0-65  inches. 


THE  YELLOW-BROWED   BULBUL 

IDLE  ICTERICA  (Strickland) 

(Frontispiece,  Fig.  3) 

Description, — Length  8  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  whole  upper 
plumage  bright  yellowish-olive  ;  wings  dark  brown,  the  outer  webs 
olive-yellow,  the  inner  edged  with  yellow ;  tail  yellowish-olive,  the 
shafts  below  and  the  inner  edges  of  the  feathers  yellow  ;  a  line  through 
and  round  the  eye,  the  sides  of  the  head  and  the  whole  lower  plumage 
bright  yellow,  the  flanks  washed  with  olive. 

Iris  brownish-red  or  blood-red  ;  bill  horny-black  ;  legs  and  feet 
pale  blue  or  slate-blue. 

Field  Identification. — A  very  sprightly  Bulbul,  bright  olive  above 
and  bright  yellow  below  with  a  yellow  line  over  the  eye.  Found  in 
melodious  parties  in  the  forests  of  the  Western  Ghats. 

Distribution. — The  Western  Ghats  from  Khandala  to  Travancore, 
extending  inland  to  the  Nilgiris  and  Palnis  at  all  heights  from  the 
foot  of  the  hills  to  6500  feet ;  most  numerous  about  3500  feet.  Also 
found  in  Ceylon. 

Another  yellowish  bird  is  the  White-throated  Bulbul  (Criniger 
gularis)  which  is  found  at  low  elevations  in  the  Eastern  Himalayas, 
Assam,  and  extreme  South-east  Bengal.  The  upper  plumage  is 
yellowish-olive  and  the  lower  parts  bright  yellow  with  a  white  throat. 
It  is  a  noisy,  gregarious  bird  found  in  humid  forest  with  thick 
undergrowth. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Yellow-browed  Bulbul  is  one  of  the  commonest 
forest  birds  of  the  Western  Ghats  where  its  normal  habitat  is  the 
heavy  evergreen  forest  which  covers  so  many  of  the  slopes  of  the  hills. 
Here  it  keeps  much  to  the  undergrowth  though  it  is  often  found 
about  the  edges  of  the  forest  and  occasionally  ventures  into  neighbour- 
ing gardens  ;  the  shade  and  solitude  of  the  forest  are,  however,  its 
proper  home. 

This  species  will  be  observed  both  in  pairs  and  in  noisy  parties 
of  five  or  seven  birds  which  often  join  on  to  the  mixed  hunting  parties. 
It  is  very  restless  in  character,  hopping  actively  about  the  boughs 
of  the  trees  and  then  descending  to  i'he  sapling  undergrowth  and 
then  again  flying  on  to  some  bare  bough  to  give  out  its  quiet  little 
warble.  The  low-toned  varying  notes  are  difficult  to  describe,  but 


76  POPULAR   HANDBOOK    OF   INDIAN    BIRDS 

the  adjectives  sweet  and  soft  and  mellow  will  at  once  occur  to  the 
hearer.  Some  of  them  resemble  the  sounds  cty  eye,  te  white  up, 
te  whit  up  and  these  three  modulations  are  continuously  repeated 
for  no  small  space  of  time.  An  alarm-note  is  somewhat  harsh  and 
jarring.  In  India  this  Bulbul  is  said  to  be  largely  frugivorous,  feeding 
not  only  on  the  forest  berries  and  fruits  but  on  the  more  valuable 
domesticated  guavas,  loquats,  pears,  peaches  and  the  like.  In  Ceylon, 
at  any  rate,  it  is  also  to  some  extent  insectivorous. 

The  breeding  season  extends  from  February  to  May.  The  nest  is 
usually  built  at  a  height  of  6  to  10  feet  from  the  ground  in  a  small 
sapling  or  evergreen  shrub  in  dense  dark  forest  where  the  light  is 
very  poor.  Occasional  nests  are  higher,  even  in  a  branch  of  a  large 
tree.  The  nest  is  not  as  a  rule  particularly  well  concealed.  It  is  very 
distinctive  in  character,  being  a  shallow  cup  made  almost  entirely  of 
green  moss  or  fine  grasses  and  bents,  bound  with  cobwebs  and  lined 
with  black  rootlets  or  fine  grass  and  slung  as  a  rule  between  two  twigs 
in  a  horizontal  fork.  The  construction  is  firm  and  compact  though 
some  are  so  thin  that  the  eggs  can  be  seen  through  the  bottom. 

The  usual  clutch  consists  of  two  eggs  though  three  are  sometimes 
found.  The  egg  is  a  moderately  long  and  rather  perfect  oval,  almost 
devoid  of  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  dull  white  or  pinkish-white 
and  sometimes  even  warm  salmon-pink,  speckled  more  or  less  thickly, 
and  often  heavily,  with  pale  reddish-brown  or  pink ;  these  markings 
are  usually  more  numerous  at  the  broad  end  and  occasionally  form 
a  cap. 

The  eggs  average  about  0-9  by  0^65  inches. 


THE  WHITE-BROWED   BULBUL 
PYCNONOTUS  LUTEOLUS  (Lesson) 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
dull  brownish  olive-green,  palest  on  the  head  where  it  is  slightly 
ashy  and  brightest  on  the  wings  ;  rump  yellowish  ;  two  dull  whitish 
streaks  from  the  beak  over  and  under  the  eye  ;  chin  pale  clear  yellow  ; 
lower  parts  pale  asny-whitish  tinged  with  yellow,  brightest  towards 
the  tail,  the  breast  faintly  streaked  with  brownish-grey. 

Iris  red  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  dark  plumbeous. 

Field  Identification. — An  inconspicuous  but  noisy  bird,  olive- 
coloured  above  and  paler  below,  with  a  white  eyebrow,  which  skulks 
in  cactus  and  bushes  in  gardens  and  scrub-jungle. 

Distribution. — Confined  to  Ceylon  and  India  south  of  a  line  from 
Baroda  on  the  west  to  Midnapur  on  the  east.  While  common  in 
Western  Bengal  and  Orissa,  in  the  Tributary  Mahals,  along  the 


THE    WHITE-BROWED    BULBUL  77 

Eastern  Ghats  and  about  Bombay,  it  is  rare  or  absent  on  the  Deccan 
tableland  and  throughout  the  Central  Provinces.  A  resident  species. 
The  Ceylon  race,  P.  I.  inmlce,  is  smaller  and  darker. 

The  Striated  Green  Bulbul  (Alcurus  leucogrammicus)  is  fairly 
common  in  the  Eastern  Himalayas,  the  hills  of  Assam  and  in  Burma. 
It  is  crested,  olive-green  above  with  white  shaft  streaks  and  yellow 
below  streaked  heavily  with  olive-brown.  The  pleasant  song  will  be 
familiar  to  many  at  Darjeeling. 

Habits,  etc. — This  Bulbul  avoids  actual  forest,  and  prefers  scrub- 
and  bush-jungle  in  that  netherland  which  is  neither  forest  nor 
cultivation.  It  frequents  the  outskirts  of  villages,  and  is  a  great  lover 
of  the  thick  clumps  and  hedges  of  cactus  and  thorny  bushes  which 
are  found  round  every  hamlet.  In  such  cover  it  is  a  skulker,  and 
from  the  heart  of  its  retreat  it  is  prone  to  burst  into  a  loud  clear 
volley  of  whistling  notes  which  seem  to  tumble  over  each  other,  so 
quickly  are  they  produced.  The  sound  is  a  lively,  rowdy  chatter 
with  no  attempt  at  harmony — just  a  burst  of  not  unpleasing  notes, 
ending  in  a  frightened  whistle.  In  Bombay  and  Madras  it  is  a 
common  garden  bird.  It  is  a  plains  species,  and  though  found  in 
the  lower  hills  does  not  ascend  those  of  any  elevation.  The  food 
consists  of  various  fruits  and  berries. 

This  bird  may  be  found  breeding  according  to  locality  in  almost 
every  month  of  the  year,  but  about  Bombay  the  main  breeding  season 
is  from  April  to  July.  Apparently  two  broods  are  reared.  The 
nest  is  a  loose,  rather  untidy,  and  straggling  cup  of  small  twigs,  lined 
with  fine  grass  stems,  coir,  or  hair.  It  is  built  in  thick  bushes  at  no 
great  height  from  the  ground,  generally  from  2  to  4  feet. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  or  three  eggs.  They  are  decidedly 
elongated  ovals,  fine  and  smooth  in  texture,  and  moderately  glossy. 
The  ground-colour  is  reddish- white,  thickly  speckled  and  blotched 
with  reddish-brown,  these  markings  mixed  with  clouds  and  spots 
of  pale  greyish-lilac.  In  some  specimens  these  markings  coalesce 
into  a  zone  round  the  broad  end. 

The  eggs  average  in  size  0-9  by  0-6  inches. 


THE  HIMALAYAN  TREE-CREEPER 
CERTHIA  HIMALAYANA  Vigors 

(Plate  ii,  Fig.  6,  opposite  page  22) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
a  streaked  mixture  of  blackish-brown  and  fulvous,  the  feathers  at 
the  base  of  the  tail  strongly  tinged  with  ferruginous ;  a  short  streak 
above  the  eye  fulvous  ;  wings  dark  brown  with  a  broad  fulvous 


78  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

band  running  through  all  the  flight-feathers  except  the  four  outer- 
most ;  tail  brown,  regularly  cross-barred  with  black  ;  chin  and  upper 
throat  pure  white  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  pale  smoky-brown. 

Iris  dark  brown ;  bill  black,  lower  mandible  fleshy-white ;  legs 
fleshy. 

The  bill  is  long,  slender,  and  curved  ;  the  toes  and  claws  are  very 
long  ;  the  tail  is  graduated  and  composed  of  stiff,  pointed  feathers. 

Field  Identification. — A  very  small  bird,  mottled  brown  above 
and  whitish  below,  with  a  long,  curved  beak- and  stiff  tail,  invariably 
found  climbing  up  the  bark  of  tree-trunks.  This  species  is 
distinguished  from  all  other  Indian  Tree- Creepers  by  the  black 
cross-bars  on  the  tail. 

Distribution. — The  Himalayan  Tree-Creeper  is  generally  dis- 
tributed in  the  mountain  ranges  that  encircle  North-western  India. 
The  typical  form  is  found  in  the  Central  Himalayas  about  Simla, 
Garhwal,  and  Kumaon.  It  is  commonly  said  to  occur  farther 
east  to  Sikkirn  and  Bhutan,  but  this  is  not  the  case.  In  Turkestan 
there  is  a  very  grey  race  with  a  long  bill  which  is  known 
as  C.  h.  tceniura.  Between  the  areas  occupied  by  these  two  forms, 
in  Kashmir  and  the  North-western  Himalayas  and  the  ranges  running 
down  south  along  the  North-west  Frontier  Province  in  Afghanistan  and 
Baluchistan,  the  Tree-Creepers  are  intermediate  in  character  between 
the  above  two  races  and  have  been  given  the  name  of  C.  h.  limes. 

The  best  known  species  in  the  Eastern  Himalayas  is  the  Sikkim 
Tree-Creeper  (Certhia  discolor)  a  more  richly  coloured  species  with 
the  lower  plumage  earthy-brown. 

Habits,  etc. — During  the  breeding  season  the  Himalayan  Tree- 
Creeper  is  found  throughout  the  mountain  forests  between  5000 
and  10,000  feet.  It  is  perhaps  most  numerous  in  the  areas  of  the 
big  spruce  firs,  but  is  sufficiently  common  wherever  it  is  found.  It 
is  an  early  breeder  and  very  hardy  in  spite  of  its  delicate-looking 
appearance  and  small  size,  and  as  early  as  March  its  song  is  a  familiar 
sound  in  the  snow-bound  forests  of  the  northern  slopes  at  a  time 
when  they  are  half  empty  of  bird-life.  During  the  winter  months 
from  November  to  March  large  numbers  drift  downhill  and  wander 
into  the  plains  at  the  foot  of  the  ranges,  occurring  at  that  season  as 
far  afield  as  Jhang,  Lahore,  and  Saharanpur. 

The  Tree-Creeper  cannot  fail  to  be  identified  by  the  veriest 
beginner  in  the  study  of  small  birds.  It  is  as  much  a  parasite  on 
the  tree-trunks  as  the  vegetable  creepers  that  cover  many  of  them. 
Except  for  an  occasional  scramble  on  a  rock  or  the  face  of  a  steep 
bank  the  Tree-Creeper  spends  its  entire  life  in  a  monotony  of 
climbing,  rather  like  a  jerky  brown  mouse,  from  the  bottom  of  a  tree- 
trunk  up  to  the  thicker  portions  of  the  boughs,  and  then  sweeping 
down  through  the  air  with  a  cicada-like  flight  to  the  base  of  a 


THE   HIMALAYAN   TREE-CREEPER  79 

neighbouring  tree  where  it  repeats  the  performance.  It  invariably 
climbs  upwards,  neither  jerking  backwards  and  downwards  like  a 
Woodpecker  may  on  occasion,  nor  running  in  all  directions  and 
positions  like  a  Nuthatch,  though  from  its  habit  of  rather  preferring 
the  underside  of  a  bough  it  is  frequently  moving  with  its  back 
parallel  to  the  ground.  It  never  perches  on  a  twig,  though  it 
sometimes  climbs  along  the  thicker  ones  in  continuation  of  its 
progress  along  a  bough,  and  it  is  never  still  longer  than  the  interval 
necessary  to  dislodge  some  tightly  ensconced  insect.  For  its  food 
is  obtained  entirely  from  the  bark  of  the  trees  that  it  climbs,  picked 
out  from  amongst  the  crevices  and  holes  with  the  long,  curved  beak, 
and  the  progress  of  the  little  bird  is  often  interrupted  by  a  parabola 
of  flight  after  a  small  moth  which  has  escaped  it  for  the  moment  by 
taking  wing  from  its  diurnal  resting-place.  The  Creeper,  while  living 
solitary  or  in  pairs  as  regards  its  own  kind,  is  very  social  with  other 
species,  and  one  or  two  are  invariably  found  with  the  mixed  hunting 
parties  of  Tits  and  Warblers,  working  the  trunks  while  they  hunt  the 
leaves  and  twigs,  so  that  tree  after  tree  undergoes  a  thorough  scrutiny. 

The  ordinary  call  of  the  Tree-Creeper  is  a  long-drawn  squeak, 
meaningless  in  tone  and  ventriloquial  in  character,  which  comes 
from  nowhere  in  particular  amongst  the  trees,  so  that  the  bird  is 
difficult  to  locate.  The  song  is  loud,  but  brief  and  monotonous, 
quis-quis-quis-quis  uttered  now  and  again  in  the  depth  of  the  forest, 
and  chiefly  remarkable  as  holding  the  field  alone  before  most  species 
in  the  hills  have  started  their  breeding  song. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  March  to  early  May. 

The  nest  is  a  cup  composed  of  fine  grasses,  dry  leaves,  moss, 
chips,  and  miscellaneous  debris  with  a  lining  of  feathers  and  fur ;  it 
is  placed  in  a  hole  or  crevice  in  a  tree-trunk,  and  very  frequently 
behind  a  loose  bulging  section  of  bark  and  between  planks  in  wooden 
buildings.  The  same  site  is  often  used  for  many  years  in  succession. 

Four  to  six  eggs  are  laid  ;  they  are  regular  broad  ovals,  fine  in 
texture  without  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  white,  profusely  spotted 
with  various  shades  of  red  and  brown,  the  markings  tending  in  many 
eggs  to  collect  in  a  zone  about  the  broad  end. 

They  measure  about  0-68  by  0-50  inches. 


THE   WALL-CREEPER 

TlCHODROMA  MURARIA   (Linnaeus) 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Summer  plumage : 
the  whole  of  the  body  plumage  ashy-grey,  except  the  chin  and 
throat  which  are  black ;  a  large  crimson  patch  on  the  wings, 
including  the  coverts  and  edges  of  the  flight-feathers  ;  flight-feathers 


8o  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF   INDIAN    BIRDS 

black,  the  four  outer  feathers  each  with  two  conspicuous  white 
spots ;  tail  black  tipped  with  ashy  which  gradually  changes  to  white 
and  increases  in  extent  towards  the  outer  feathers. 


FIG.    12— Wall-Creeper     (i  nat.  size) 

In  winter  plumage  the  chin  and  throat  are  white  and  the  top  of 
the  head  is  brownish. 

The  bill  is  long  and  slender,  the  wings  rounded  and  the  hind 
claws  very  large. 


THE    WALL-CREEPER  81 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Field  Identification. — Can  be  confused  with  no  other  species  ;  a 
french-grey  bird  with  a  long  slender  bill  and  crimson  patches  and 
white  spots  in  the  wings,  which  spends  its  life  climbing  on  banks, 
walls,  and  rocks. 

Distribution. — The  Wall-Creeper  is  found  in  the  mountain  ranges 
of  Central  and  Southern  Europe,  and  eastwards  to  Mongolia, 
Turkestan,  and  the  Himalayas.  Breeding  under  very  similar  Alpine 
conditions  in  these  widely-distant  areas  it  has  not  been  influenced 
by  climate  towards  the  formation  of  geographical  races. 

In  the  Himalayas  it  breeds  at  great  elevations  between  12,000 
and  16,000  feet,  and  also  apparently  in  the  neighbouring  ranges 
between  the  North-west  Frontier  Province  and  Afghanistan.  In 
winter  it  descends  to  the  outer  ranges  and  the  foot-hills,  individuals 
wandering  well  out  into  the  plains. 

The  stumpy  little  dark  brown  Wren  (Troglodytes  troglodytes)  with 
its  cocked-up  tail  is  found  in  the  Sufed  Koh,  Kashmir  and  the  Himalayas 
generally  in  the  high  forest  zone,  descending  lower  in  winter.  There 
are  two  different  races  but  their  habits  are  the  same  as  those  of  the 
British  bird. 

Habits,  etc. — This  beautiful  bird  can  scarcely  escape  notice 
where  it  occurs.  In  the  Alpine  fastnesses,  where  it  breeds,  it  spends 
its  life  on  the  faces  of  stupendous  precipices,  but  in  winter  when  it 
comes  lower  down  to  the  milder  haunts  of  men  it  may  be  found 
wherever  small  cliffs,  steep-cut  banks,  walls,  rocks,  or  boulders 
provide  the  vertical  surfaces  on  which  it  lives.  For  as  the  Tree- 
Creeper  is  to  the  tree,  so  is  the  Wall-Creeper  to  the  stone,  and  it  is 
equally  rare  for  the  one  bird  to  invade  the  haunt  of  the  other.  The 
Wall-Creeper  progresses  up  the  vertical  face  of  stone  in  a  curious 
jerky  fashion  with  a  continual  downward  flick  of  the  outermost 
wing-feathers  ;  occasionally  it  flutters  out  into  the  air  and  endeavours 
on  the  wing  to  capture  some  insect  disturbed  by  its  progress,  and 
the  curious  butterfly  effect  of  this  action  has  given  the  name  of 
"  Butterfly-bird "  in  many  languages  from  Switzerland  to  Tibet. 
Unlike  the  Tree-Creeper,  the  Wall-Creeper  has  perforce  to  undertake 
long  flights  in  the  air  as  it  passes  from  cliff  to  cliff.  Then  it  is 
curiously  reminiscent  of  a  Hoopoe,  the  same  hovering,  uncertain 
flight  as  if  the  bird  was  wondering  where  to  go,  the  same  rounded 
spotted  wings,  the  same  general  build,  the  long  curved  beak  too,  a 
curious  case  of  parallelism  still  unexplained. 

In  its  occasional  wanderings  into  the  plains  it  is  often  hard  put 
to  find  the  conditions  necessary  to  its  life  and  is  in  consequence 
sometimes  found  in  curious  places.  Every  winter  one  or  two  live 
on  the  structure  of  the  Khalsa  College  at  Amritsar. 

The  breeding  season  in  the  Himalayas  is  about  May  and  June. 

F 


82  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

The  nest  is  a  pad  of  moss  and  wool,  more  or  less  mixed  and  lined 
with  wool,  fur,  hair,  and  feathers,  placed  in  some  crevice  in  the  face 
of  a  precipice,  almost  invariably  in  an  inaccessible  situation. 

The  clutch  consists  of  four  to  six  eggs ;  they  are  broad  ovals, 
compressed  and  pointed  towards  the  smaller  end.  The  colour  is  a 
rather  dull  white  sparsely  freckled  with  deep  reddish-brown,  chiefly 
towards  the  broad  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-85  by  0-55  inches. 


THE    BROWN    DIPPER 

CINCLUS  PALLASII  Temminck 
(Plate  ix  Fig.  5,  opposite  page  176) 

Description. — Length  8  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Entire  plumage  dull 
chocolate-brown  ;  the  eyelids  covered  with  white  feathers. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  pale  brown,  soles  yellow. 

The  young  bird  is  paler  and  greyer  with  the  plumage  squamated. 

Field  Identification. — A  sombre  dark-brown  bird,  squat  in  shape, 
with  a  short  tail  and  sharp  beak  like  a  large  Wren,  found  on  running 
open  water  in  the  Himalayas  ;  flies  very  swiftly  low  over  the  water 
with  a  shrill  call. 

Distribution. — This  sombre  species  of  Dipper  is  found  throughout 
the  greater  part  of  Northern  Asia  from  Siberia  and  Manchuria  to 
the  Himalayas  and  Japan  ;  it  is  divided  into  several  races,  of  which 
we  are  only  concerned  with  one  (C.  p.  tenuirostris).  This  is  found 
in  Afghanistan  and  Turkestan,  and  throughout  the  Himalayas  to 
Eastern  Assam  north  of  the  Brahmaputra.  It  is  a  resident  species 
breeding  mainly  from  the  foot-hills  up  to  about  6000  feet,  but  »it 
occurs  also  at  all  heights  up  to  12,000  feet. 

A  race  of  the  Common  Dipper  (Cinclus  cinclus)  of  Europe  is  found 
at  high  elevations  of  the  Inner  Himalayas,  being  best  known  from 
Kashmir  to  Gurhwal.  It  is  easily  recognised  by  the  pure  white  throat 
and  breast. 

Habitsy  etc. — The  Brown  Dipper  is  entirely  aquatic  in  its  habits, 
and  is  found  commonly  on  all  the  open  perennial  streams  and 
rivers  of  the  Himalayas,  both  amongst  the  wooded  ranges  of  their 
southern  slopes  and  amid  the  arid,  stony  mountains  of  their  central 
and  inner  ranges.  It  obtains  from  the  water  all  its  food,  consisting 
mainly  of  aquatic  insects  and  their  larvae,  and  these  it  captures 
by  wading,  swimming,  and  diving,  having  also  the  faculty  of  walking 
about  on  the  bed  of  the  stream  under  water.  For  these  methods 
it  is  admirably  adapted  in  structure.  It  is  short,  rotund,  and 
stoutly  built,  the  plumage  is  everywhere  very  dense  and  incapable 


THE    BROWN    DIPPER  83 

of  penetration  by  water,  and  even  the  eyelids  are  clothed  with 
feathers  ;  the  head  is  narrowed  in  front  and  the  feathers  of  the 
forehead  are  very  short  and  lie  flat. 

It  is  a  most  active  bird,  never  still  and  always  busy.  The  harsh 
call  dzchit-dzchit  is  a  familiar  sound  along  hill  streams,  shrill  enough 
to  be  heard  easily  above  the  roar  of  the  waters  ;  it  heralds  the  approach 
of  the  small  plump  brown  bird  that  flies  swiftly  along  a  foot  or  two 
above  the  surface  of  the  water,  swaying  from,  side  to  side  amongst 
the  boulders  and  only  making  a  detour  over  land  to  avoid  some 
intruder  at  the  water's  edge  ;  the  wings  appear  rather  small  for  the 
stout  body,  and  to  make  up  for  this  they  are  vibrated  very  quickly 
in  flight  in  sustained  beats  followed  by  a  pause. 

Settling  on  a  stone  the  bird  bows  and  jerks  from  side  to  side, 
or  immediately  starts  feeding,  keeping  its  foothold  easily  on  slippery 
stones  and  disappearing  under  water  either  diving  or  walking.  It 
swims  freely  on  the  broader  pools,  looking  like  a  miniature  Water-hen, 
now  and  again  diving  and  disappearing  for  a  while. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  December  to  May. 

The  nest  is  a  large  globular  structure  of  moss  and  grass,  stoutly 
constructed  with  massive  walls,  and  the  entrance  placed  at  one  side 
is  comparatively  large.  The  egg-chamber  is  lined  with  moss,  roots 
and  leaves. 

The  situation  chosen  is  always  close  to  or  above  the  water,  and 
the  nests  are  wedged  into  hollows  and  clefts  of  rocks  and  boulders 
overgrown  with  mosses  and  ferns  and  damp  with  moisture. 

The  clutch  consists  of  four  or  five  eggs.  In  shape  they  are  rather 
elongated  ovals,  very  soft  and  satiny  in  texture,  and  almost  without 
gloss.  The  colour  is  pure  white,  and  the  average  size  is  about  i-oo 
by  0*72  inches. 


THE   INDIAN  BLUE-CHAT 

LUSCINIA  BRUNNEA   (Hodgson) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Male  :  The  whole  upper  plumage, 
including  the  exposed  parts  of  the  wings  and  tail,  dull  blue,  the 
hidden  parts  of  the  wing-  and  tail-quills  brownish-black  ;  a  conspicuous 
white  line  over  the  eye  ;  the  sides  of  the  face  and  neck  black  ;  throat, 
breast  and  sides  of  the  body  bright  chestnut,  paler  on  the  chin  ; 
thighs  ashy-grey  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  white. 

Female :  The  whole  upper  plumage  and  the  exposed  parts  of 
the  wings  and  tail  olive-brown,  tinged  with  russet  on  the  sides  of 
the  wings  and  above  the  tail ;  sides  of  the  face  russet  flecked  with 
paler ;  middle  of  chin  and  throat,  the  abdomen  and  a  patch  under 


84  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

the  tail  white  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  warm  fulvous-brown  or 
olive-brown. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  black  in  male,  dark  horny-brown  in  female  ; 
legs  steely-brown. 

Field  Identification. — A  spry  looking  bird  found  on  or  near  the 
ground  in  thick  undergrowth  in  forest  in  the  Himalayas  in  summer 
and  in  South  India  in  winter.  Male  looks  very  dark  blue  above  and 
chestnut  below  with  a  conspicuous  white  line  over  the  eye  ;  female 
an  inconspicuous  olive-brown  bird,  more  fulvous  and  white  below. 
Has  a  characteristic  song. 

Distribution. — The  typical  race  of  the  Blue- Chat  breeds  in  a  zone 
between  6500  and  n,ooo  feet  in  the  Sufed  Koh,  through  Kashmir 
proper  and  in  the  Himalayas  to  Bhutan ;  also  in  the  Lichiang  Range 
of  North  Yunnan.  It  winters  mainly  in  the  hills  of  South-west  India 
between  2000  and  5000  feet  from  the  Wynaad  to  South  Travancore 
and  in  the  central  hills  of  Ceylon.  On  passage  from  August  to  October 
and  from  March  to  mid  May  it  may  be  found  here  and  there  throughout 
the  Peninsula  except  west  of  a  line  from  Delhi  to  Agra  and  Baroda. 
A  slightly  smaller  race  L.  b.  wickhami  breeds  in  Burma  and  is  apparently 
resident. 

Habits,  etc. — During  the  breeding  season  the  Indian  Blue- Chat 
is  a  common  bird  in  the  forests  of  the  Western  Himalayas,  being 
particularly  numerous  about  the  hill  stations  of  Murree  and  the  Galis, 
in  the  ranges  of  Kashmir  proper  and  at  suitable  elevations  about 
Dalhousie,  Dharamsala,  Simla  and  in  the  Gahrwal  ranges.  In  these 
forests  it  affects  patches  of  undergrowth  and  scrub  and  the  sheltered 
sides  of  nullahs.  By  the  ordinary  passer-by  it  is  seldom  seen,  being 
a  skulker  of  secretive  habits  ;  but  its  commonness  is  vouched  for  by 
the  rich  though  quite  short  song,  and  a  good  way  to  observe  the  singer 
is  to  creep  quietly  into  the  centre  of  a  patch  of  cover  and  sit  there 
till  his  alarm  has  been  forgotten.  The  male  may  then  be  seen  at 
quite  close  quarters  as  he  hops  warbling  and  whistling  through  the 
cover,  or  sings  from  a  perch  in  the  undergrowth  or  on  the  lower 
bough  of  a  tree.  The  sombre  female  is  still  more  difficult  to  observe. 

The  song  consists  of  three  or  four  rather  monotonous  notes — 
jerri- jerri- jerri  or  phwee-phwee-phwee — in  an  ascending  scale,  followed 
by  a  rapidly  repeated  trill,  tre-tre-tre-tretre,  the  last  rather  reminiscent 
of  an  English  Robin's  song.  Once  learnt  it  cannot  be  mistaken.  The 
alarm-note  is  a  harsh  tack-tack  like  that  of  the  Stonechat  and  in 
the  close  neighbourhood  of  the  nest  a  faint,  anxious  squeak  is  uttered. 
A  very  characteristic  habit  is  the  fanning  of  the  tail  and  the  jerking 
of  it  slowly  downwards  from  the  level  of  the  back,  every  fifth  or  sixth 
movement  bringing  it  up  again. 

In  its  winter  quarters  the  Blue-Chat  is  still  a  bird  of  shady  thickets, 
marshy  spots  and  banks  of  streams  and  it  may  also  be  found  under 


THE   INDIAN   BLUE-CHAT  85 

coffee  bushes  and  cardamum  plants.  Here  it  is  usually  found  singly, 
flitting  about  the  undergrowth,  alighting  on  the  ground  and  hopping 
along  easily  and  swiftly  in  search  of  the  insects  that  make  up  its  food. 
The  alarm-note  and  the  faint  squeak  may  be  heard,  but  the  song  is 
not  uttered  in  the  winter  quarters. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  the  end  of  May  till  the  end  of  July. 

The  nest  is  a  cup  of  lichens  and  dead  or  skeleton  leaves,  lined 
with  a  little  wool,  pine-needles,  hair  or  a  few  feathers.  It  is  built 
on  the  ground,  either  in  a  hollow  on  a  steep  bank  or  between  the 
roots  and  buttresses  of  trees,  particularly  large  firs. 

The  clutch  consists  normally  of  four  eggs.  In  shape  they  are 
true  ovals,  fine  and  close  and  silky  in  texture  but  without  gloss.  The 
colour  is  a  uniform  pale  blue,  unmarked. 

They  measure  about  0-80  by  0-60  inches. 

This  species  is  a  favourite  foster  parent  for  the  Common  Cuckoo 
(Cuculus  canorus). 


THE    PIED    BUSH-CHAT 

SAXICOLA  CAPRATA  (Linnaeus) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Male :  Deep  black  all  over,  with 
the  exception  of  a  large  patch  at  the  base  of  the  tail,  the  lower  abdomen, 
and  a  conspicuous  wing-patch,  which  are  white.  In  fresh  autumn 
plumage  the  feathers  are  sometimes  margined  with  rusty-brown. 

Female  :  Upper  plumage  greyish-brown,  with  a  rufous  patch  at 
the  base  of  the  tail ;  wings  and  tail  dark  brown,  the  feathers  with 
pale  edges  ;  the  lower  plumage  brownish-grey,  gradually  darkening  on 
the  breast  and  becoming  more  fulvous  towards  the  tail.  In  fresh 
autumn  plumage  the  feathers  have  broad  grey  margins  which  make 
the  bird  look  paler  in  colour. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Field  Identification. — Abundant  in  the  plains  and  lower  hills  in 
every  type  of  open  country ;  the  male  is  a  conspicuous  little  black 
and  white  bird,  the  female  dark  brown  with  a  rusty  patch  at  the  base 
of  the  tail.  They  perch  on  the  tops  of  grasses  and  bushes  and  at 
intervals  fly  down  to  the  ground  to  pick  up  insects. 

Distribution. — Transcaspia,  Afghanistan,  Persia,  India,  Burma,  the 
Philippines,  and  Java.  The  Pied  Bush- Chat  occurs  practically 
throughout  India,  and  three  races  are  found  within  our  limits  though 
their  detailed  distribution  is  not  very  accurately  known.  P.  c. 
bicolor,  with  the  abdomen  largely  white,  breeds  in  considerable 
numbers  from  the  plains  up  to  5000  feet  and  locally  higher, 
from  the  extreme  North-west,  Baluchistan,  and  Sind,  along  the 

F2 


86 


POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF   INDIAN    BIRDS 


Outer  Himalayas  and  the  neighbouring  plains.  It  is  here  largely 
a  summer  visitor,  arriving  in  February  and  March  and  leaving  in 
September  and  October.  In  winter  it  appears  as  far  south  as 
Hyderabad  State.  P.  c.  caprata,  with  the  abdomen  black,  is  found 
from  Vizagapatam  to  Salem  and  across  Mysore  to  Malabar  as  well  as 
in  Burma  and  farther  afield.  It  grades  through  S.  c.  nilgiriensis 
(Nilgiris,  Palnis  and  Travancore  ranges)  to  the  huge  billed  S.  c.  air  at  a 
which  is  confined  to  the  higher  ranges  of  central  hill  zone  of  Ceylon. 
Habits i,  etc. — This  Bush- Chat  is  one  of  the  most  familiar  birds  of 
the  plains  of  India,  the  pied  plumage  of  the  male  and  its  habit  of 
perching  on  the  tops  of  bushes  and  clumps  of  grass  attracting  the 

attention  of  all  who  are  observant  of 
wild  creatures.  It  avoids  heavy  forest 
but  is  common  about  cultivation,  in 
grasslands  and  in  scrub-jungle,  and  is 
particularly  partial  to  the  riverain  areas 
of  Northern  India  where  cultivation 
and  tracts  of  tamarisk  scrub  and  grass 
alternate. 

It  takes  practically  all  its  food  from 
the  ground,  flying  down  to  it  from  some 
favourite  vantage  point  which  commands 
a  view  of  bare  ground  in  the  vicinity,  and 
to  which  it  returns  after  the  capture  of 
each  morsel  with  the  self-satisfied  spread 
and  jerk  of  the  tail  that  is  common  to 
most  of  the  family.  On  occasion  it 
launches  out  into  the  air  and  captures 
flying  insects  on  the  wing. 

In  the  breeding  season,  as  a  display, 
the  male  drops  and  quivers  the  wings  and 
raises  the  scapulars  to  show  the  white 
wing-patches  ;  there  is  also  a  very  pretty 
love  flight  in  which  he  flies  up  singing 
from  the  top  spray  of  a  bush  with  tail  outspread  and  wings  slowly 
beating  the  air  above  the  head,  and  descends  again  to  settle  on  another 
bush.  In  this  flight,  also,  prominence  is  laid  on  the  displaying  of  the 
wing-patches. 

The  ordinary  note  is  the  harsh  chipping  sound  of  two  stones 
knocked  together,  common  to  the  Chats  and  from  which  they  derive 
their  name.     The  song  is  short  but  very  sweet  and  pleasing. 
The  food  seems  to  consist  entirely  of  insects. 
The  breeding  season  extends  from  March  until  August,  but  the 
majority  of  nests  will  be  found  from  April  to  June. 

The  nest  is  a  cup  of  small  grass  roots,  bents,  and  the  like,  lined 


FIG.  13— Pied  Bush-Chat 
(J  nat.  size) 


THE   PIED    BUSH-CHAT  87 

with  hair,  fur,  and  wool.  It  is  placed  in  hollows  in  the  ground,  either 
on  the  level  under  tufts  of  grass  and  herbage  or  in  the  face  of  banks  ; 
occasionally  holes  in  buildings  and  rocks  are  utilised,  but  the  bird  is 
normally  a  ground  builder  and  the  nests  are  always  well  concealed. 

The  clutch  varies  from  three  to  five  eggs. 

The  eggs  are  short,  broad  ovals  with  a  fine  texture  and  a  faint 
gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  pale  bluish-white  or  occasionally  pale 
stone  or  pinkish-white,  and  the  markings,  which  tend  to  collect  towards 
the  broad  end,  are  freckles,  specks,  and  small  blotches  of  pale  reddish- 
brown. 

They  measure  about  0-67  by  0-55  inches. 


THE    STONECHAT 

SAXICOLA  TORQUATA  (Linnaeus) 
(Plate  xiv,  Fig.  2,  opposite  page  286) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Male  :  Upper  plumage  including 
the  wings  and  tail  brownish-black,  with  a  conspicuous  white  patch 
of  white  on  the  wings  and  at  the  base  of  the  tail ;  the  sides  of  the 
head  and  the  chin  and  throat  black  with  a  large  patch  of  white 
bordering  the  sides  of  the  neck  ;  breast  orange-rufous  merging  into 
the  paler  rufous  of  the  under  parts.  In  fresh  autumn  plumage  the 
feathers  are  broadly  edged  with  fulvous,  which  greatly  obscures 
the  above  scheme  of  coloration,  and  changes  the  whole  aspect  of 
the  bird  ;  the  edges  gradually  wear  off  revealing  the  true  coloration. 

Female  :  Upper  plumage,  wings  and  tail  brown  with  smaller  less 
conspicuous  white  patches  on  the  wings,  and  a  rufous  patch  at  the 
base  of  the  tail ;  line  over  the  eye,  the  chin  and  the  throat  pale 
fulvous ;  remainder  of  the  lower  plumage  pale  orange-rufous.  In 
fresh  autumn  plumage  the  feathers  are  slightly  edged  with  fulvous, 
but  not  sufficiently  for  abrasion  to  change  the  plumage  markedly. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Field  Identification. — In  open  country,  in  both  hills  and  plains, 
perching  on  tips  of  grass  and  bushes.  Males  recognised  by  black 
head,  white  collar,  reddish  breast,  and  white  shoulder-patch.  Female, 
a  small  dull  brown  bird  similar  to  female  of  Pied  Bush-Chat,  but 
rather  paler  in  colour  with  the  rusty  rump -patch  less  marked,  and 
with  traces  of  a  white  shoulder-patch. 

Distribution. — The  Stonechat  is  very  widely  distributed  in  Europe, 
Africa,  and  Asia,  and  is  divided  into  a  number  of  races,  of  which  we 
are  chiefly  concerned  with  the  Himalayan  breeding  form,  known  as 
S.  torquata  indica.  This  breeds  in  Western  Siberia,  Russian  Turkestan 
to  the  South  Urals,  and  throughout  the  Himalayas  ;  also  in  the  ranges 


88  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

that  extend  down  the  North-western  Frontier  to  Baluchistan.  In  the 
Himalayas  the  majority  breed  between  5000  and  7000  feet,  but  a  few 
nest  even  higher,  and  stragglers  nest  in  the  foot-hills,  and  even  the 
plains  of  North-western  India.  In  winter,  from  about  September  to 
April,  the  Stonechat  migrates  to  the  plains  of  India,  and  may  then 
be  found  everywhere  except  in  the  extreme  south.  A  resident  race 
S.  t.  leucura,  with  much  white  in  the  tail,  breeds  in  the  riverain  jungles 
and  swampy  areas  of  the  terais  and  dunes  and  the  Indo-Gangetic  plain. 

S.  t.  przewalskiiy  the  dark  breeding  race  of  Tibet,  and  S.  t.  stejnegeri, 
the  broad-billed  race  of  North-eastern  Asia,  visit  Northern  and  Eastern 
India  in  winter. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Stonechat  is  never  found  in  forest  country. 
During  the  summer  months,  whilst  breeding  in  the  Himalayas,  it  is 
found  on  the  open  hill-sides,  either  amongst  the  terraced  cultivation 
or  on  the  bare  waste  slopes  where  rough  grazing  alternates  with 
rocky  screes.  In  winter  in  the  plains  it  is  largely  a  bird  of  open 
cultivation,  being  particularly  partial  to  fields  with  standing  crops  of 
cotton,  sugar-cane,  or  the  various  cereals.  Under  all  circumstances 
its  characteristics  are  the  same.  It  invariably  perches  on  some 
vantage-point,  either  a  large  stone  or  more  generally  the  topmost 
twig  of  a  bush  or  plant,  and  thence  makes  short  flights  in  all  directions 
on  to  the  ground  to  capture  some  insect,  either  devouring  it  on  the 
spot,  or  taking  it  back  for  the  purpose  to  its  perch.  It  is  very  restless 
and  fairly  shy,  and  is  incessantly  flirting  its  wings  and  tail.  It  does 
not  move  about  on  the  ground,  but  the  flight  is  fast  and  strong,  and 
once  alarmed  the  bird  is  difficult  to  approach.  The  alarm-notes,  hweet- 
chat,  hweet-chat,  somewhat  resemble  the  noise  made  by  clinking  two 
stones  together,  and  are  responsible  for  the  bird's  trivial  name  ;  they 
are  uttered  at  the  least  provocation,  as  the  bird  is  rather  fussy  and 
suspicious.  The  song  is  a  short  low  trill,  and  is  quite  pleasant  though 
it  is  audible  but  for  a  short  distance. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  March  to  July,  but  most  eggs  will 
be  found  in  April  and  May.  Two  broods  are  reared  in  a  season. 

The  nest  is  a  cup  composed  of  rather  coarse  grass  and  roots, 
sometimes  mixed  with  moss  or  dry  leaves,  and  lined  with  fine  grass, 
hair,  fur,  and  occasionally  a  few  feathers.  It  is  built  in  holes  in 
terrace  walls,  under  rocks  and  boulders,  in  banks  and  under  tufts 
of  foliage,  and  is  well  concealed,  so  that  it  is  best  found  by  watching 
the  parents  with  field  glasses. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  four  or  five  eggs. 

They  are  rather  broad  ovals  with  little  or  no  gloss.  The  ground- 
colour is  dull  pale  green  or  greenish-white,  very  finely  and  faintly 
freckled  with  pale  brownish-red  ;  the  markings  are  very  delicate  in 
character  and  tend  to  collect  towards  the  broad  end. 

They  measure  about  0*70  by  0*55  inches. 


PLATE  V 


.  White-throated  Laughing-Thrush.    2.  Deccan  Scimitar-Babbler.    3.  Jerdon's 
Chloropsis.     4.  Black-headed  Sibia.     (All  about  T^  nat.  size.) 


[Face  p.  88 


THE  DARK-GREY  BUSH-CHAT          89 


THE  DARK-GREY  BUSH-CHAT 

RHODOPHILA  FERREA  (Gray) 
(Plate  xi,  Fig.  2,  opposite  page  220) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Male :  Upper  plumage  dark 
ashy-grey  mixed  with  black ;  wings  black  edged  with  grey,  and 
with  a  white  patch  on  the  inner  coverts  ;  tail  black,  the  feathers 
increasingly  margined  with  white  outwards  ;  a  broad  white  streak 
above  the  eye  ;  sides  of  the  head  black  ;  entire  lower  plumage  white 
sullied  with  ashy  along  the  flanks  and  on  the  thighs.  In  fresh  autumn 
plumage  the  upper  parts  have  rusty  margins  to  the  feathers  but  these 
soon  wear  off. 

Female  :  The  whole  upper  plumage  rufous-ashy ;  tail  brown, 
broadly  edged  with  chestnut  matching  the  upper  tail-coverts  ;  wings 
brown,  the  feathers  narrowly  edged  with  rufous  ;  a  pale  grey  streak 
above  the  eye  ;  sides  of  the  head  reddish-brown  ;  chin  and  throat 
white  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  pale  rufous-ashy. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  dark  brown. 

The  tail  is  rather  longer  and  more  graduated  than  in  the  true 
Chats  of  the  genus  Saxicola. 

Field  Identification. — Common  Himalayan  form.  Male  pied  black 
and  white  with  the  under  surface  white ;  female  rufous-brown,  paler 
below  with  a  chestnut  tail ;  sits  conspicuously  on  bushes  and  trees 
on  the  more  open  hill-sides  ;  tail  comparatively  long. 

Distribution. — This  Bush-Chat  breeds  throughout  the  Himalayas 
from  the  borders  of  Afghanistan  and  Chitral  to  Eastern  Assam  at 
elevations  between  4000  and  10,000  feet.  While  not  migratory  in 
the  true  sense  of  the  word,  it  moves  to  a  lower  zone  in  the  winter 
months  ;  at  that  season  it  is  common  along  the  waterways  of  Assam 
and  Eastern  Bengal,  but  in  the  west  only  a  few  straggle  to  the  plains 
along  the  base  of  the  Himalayas. 

HabitSy  etc. — This  is  a  familiar  bird  in  Himalayan  hill  stations, 
frequenting  all  types  of  country  provided  that  they  are  moderately 
open  ;  it  is  fond  of  gardens  and  the  immediate  neighbourhood  of 
man.  It  has  the  family  habit  of  perching  in  conspicuous  positions 
on  the  tops  of  bushes,  but  differs  from  the  Chats  of  the  genus 
Saxicola  in  its  fondness  for  situations  at  the  tops  of  trees.  In  such 
places  the  male  sings  his  rather  pretty  but  unsatisfactory  little  song, 
Tttheratu-chak-lew-titattt — always  just  that  length  but  with  a  few 
variations,  and  with  a  rising  inflection  that  ends  suddenly.  It  captures 
insects  and  caterpillars  on  the  ground,  and  also  sallies  into  the  air  to 
take  insects  on  the  wing.  While  bold  and  familiar  in  an  ordinary 
way,  it  develops  a  very  anxious  demeanour  during  the  nesting  season, 


90  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

flirting  its  long  tail  and  making  a  noise  which  has  been  aptly  described 
as  "  geezing,"  recalling  the  winding  of  a  watch.  The  nearer  one 
approaches  to  the  nest  or  fledged  young  the  more  excited  become 
the  birds,  so  that  their  very  anxiety  betrays  the  spot  on  the  principle 
of  the  children's  game  of  "  hot  and  cold." 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  the  beginning  of  April  to  the 
end  of  July  and  two  broods  are  reared,  occasionally  from  the  same 
nest. 

The  nest  is  the  usual  cup  characteristic  of  the  Chats,  a  structure 
of  coarse  grass,  fine  twigs,  and  moss,  lined  with  fine  roots  and  grass 
stems,  horse-hair,  and  fur.  It  is  placed  in  a  hollow  either  on  some 
grassy  bank,  beneath  a  stone,  amongst  the  roots  of  a  tree,  or  occasionally 
amongst  the  stones  of  a  rough  terrace  wall. 

The  clutch  consists  of  four  or  five  eggs.  In  shape  they  are  a 
broad  oval,  with  a  stout  and  fine  texture  and  little  gloss.  The  ground- 
colour is  variable  from  bluish-white  to  bluish-green  ;  the  markings 
consist  of  faint  reddish  speckles  which  may  either  cover  the  whole 
egg  so  completely  that  it  appears  rufous  rather  than  blue,  or  collect 
into  a  zone  or  cap  about  the  broad  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-72  by  0-57  inches. 

This  Bush-Chat  is  commonly  victimised  by  the  Cuckoo  (Cuculus 
canorus),  and  a  large  proportion  of  its  nests  are  destroyed  by  other 
enemies. 


THE    PIED    WHEATEAR 
(ENANTHE  PICATA  (Blyth) 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Male  :  Black  throughout  except 
a  patch  on  the  rump  and  upper  tail-coverts,  and  the  lower  plumage 
from  the  breast  downwards  which  are  pure  white  ;  the  tail  is  white 
except  for  a  broad  black  band  across  the  end,  widening  on  the  central 
pair  to  nearly  half  of  the  feathers. 

Female  :  Upper  plumage  brown  ;  a  white  patch  on  the  rump 
and  upper  tail-coverts  ;  wings  dark  brown  ;  tail  as  in  the  male  but 
black  replaced  by  brown  ;  chin,  throat,  and  breast  dark  ochraceous- 
brown  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  pale  buff y- whitish. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Field  Identification. — In  dry  open  country  sitting  on  walls,  stones, 
and  posts  ;  male  black  with  white  rump  and  under  parts,  and  a  white 
tail  banded  with  black  which  is  conspicuous  in  flight ;  female  brown 
with  similar  tail ;  flies  low  and  fast  over  the  ground  when  disturbed. 

Distribution.  —  Breeds  in  South  -  east  Persia,  Baluchistan, 
Afghanistan,  the  neighbouring  areas  of  the  North-west  Frontier 


THE    PIED   WHEATEAR  91 

Province,  and  Baltistan.  In  winter  migrates  to  India  where  it  is 
abundant  in  Sind,  Rajputana,  and  portions  of  the  United  Provinces, 
and  in  smaller  numbers  in  the  Punjab.  Two  very  closely  allied 
species,  the  White-capped  Wheatear  (OSnanthe  capistratd)  and 
Strickland's  Wheatear  (CEnanthe  opisthokuca)  winter  in  some  numbers 
in  North-west  India,  the  latter  breeding  along  the  Suliman  Hills. 
They  closely  resemble  the  Pied  Wheatear,  and  by  some  writers  have 
been  erroneously  considered  polymorphisms  of  that  species.  The  first 
named  has  the  top  of  the  head  and  nape  greyish-white.  Strickland's 
Wheatear  has  the  lower  parts  black  almost  to  the  vent. 

Habits,  etc. — This  handsome  Wheatear  is  amongst  the  earliest  of 


FIG.  14 — Pied  Wheatear     (J  nat.  size) 

the  winter  visitors  to  arrive  in  India,  appearing  in  Sind  about  the 
middle  of  August ;  it  leaves  again  in  February  and  March.  This, 
like  other  Wheatears,  avoids  forest  and  damp  areas.  It  prefers 
open  desert,  thin  scrub-jungle,  and  the  drier  stretches  of  cultivation  ; 
and  in  such  places  is  particularly  fond  of  the  neighbourhood  of 
native  huts  and  cattle-folds,  attracted  no  doubt  by  the  insects  that 
gather  in  their  vicinity.  It  perches  comparatively  seldom  in  trees, 
but  sits  on  low  mud  walls,  well-posts,  and  similar  situations  where 
it  watches  for  food,  and  thence  flies  down  to  the  ground  to  pick  up 
wandering  beetles,  ants,  and  other  insect  life.  The  flight  is  strong 
and  fast  and  always  low  over  the  ground,  and,  perching  or  hopping, 
the  carriage  of  the  bird  is  very  spry  and  upright.  Each  individual 
has  its  own  beat  with  a  series  of  observation-posts,  and  resents  the 
arrival  within  it  of  intruders  of  the  same  species,  chasing  them 
away :  it  is  however  rather  a  shy  bird,  as  regards  man.  During 
the  midday  heat  it  rests  quietly  in  some  shady  spot,  and  at  night  it 


92  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

roosts  in  the  roofs  of  buildings  by  preference.  The  male  has  a  very 
sweet,  low  warbling  song,  which  is  sometimes  uttered  in  winter. 
In  this  species,  as  in  the  allied  species  mentioned,  there  is  a  marked 
preponderance  of  males  in  India  in  winter,  somewhat  in  the  pro- 
portion of  twenty  to  one  female,  and  no  explanation  of  the  fact  is 
known. 

In  Baluchistan  and  the  Kurram  it  breeds  from  late  April  to  June 
at  heights  from  5000  to  8000  feet  and  even  higher.  The  nest  is  a 
large  structure  of  roots,  bents,  and  feathers,  the  cup  being  lined 
with  wool  and  hair.  It  is  placed  deep  in  a  hole  in  a  bank,  rock,  or 
wall.  The  clutch  consists  of  four  or  five  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  blunt,  broad  oval,  fine  and  close  in  texture,  with  a 
fair  gloss.  The  ground-colour  varies  from  white  to  pale  skim-milk- 
blue,  sparsely  marked  with  tiny  freckles  and  a  few  small  blotches  of 
reddish-brown,  the  markings  tending  to  gather  in  a  zone  round  the 
broad  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-8  by  O'6  inches. 


THE    DESERT    WHEATEAR 

(ENANTHE  DESERTI  (Temminck) 
(Plate  xiv,  Fig.  4,  opposite  page  286) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Male :  Upper  plumage  rich 
buff  turning  to  a  white  patch  at  the  base  of  the  tail ;  wings  black, 
the  feathers  margined  with  white  or  buff,  and  with  a  patch  on  the 
inner  coverts  white  ;  tail  black,  the  basal  half  of  the  feathers  white  ; 
a  pale  buff  streak  over  the  eyes  ;  sides  of  the  head  and  neck,  chin, 
and  throat  black,  the  feathers  edged  with  buff ;  remainder  of  lower 
plumage  buff,  brightest  on  the  breast. 

Female :  Resembles  the  male,  but  is  duller  and  the  black  is 
replaced  by  brown. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Field  Identification. — A  typical  Wheatear  perching  on  the  ground 
or  on  low  bushes  in  arid  open  country ;  sandy  in  colour  with  dark 
wings,  and  black  throat-patch  in  male  ;  a  white  patch  in  the  base 
of  the  tail ;  flies  low  and  fast  over  the  ground  when  disturbed. 

Distribution. — The  Desert  Wheatear  has  a  wide  distribution  as 
a  breeding  species  in  Northern  Africa,  Palestine,  Arabia,  and  South- 
western Asia  to  Tibet.  It  is  divided  into  several  races,  of  which  we 
are  only  concerned  with  two.  CE.  d.  atrogularis  breeds  in  Western 
Central  Asia,  the  Kirghiz  Steppe,  the  South  Caucasus  to  Eastern 
Persia  and  Afghanistan.  In  winter  it  migrates  to  the  plains  of  North- 
western India,  becoming  very  common  in  the  North-west  Frontier 


THE    DESERT    WHEATEAR  93 

Province,  the  Punjab  and  Sind,  and  reaching  the  latitude  of  Bombay 
to  the  south  and  Nagpur  in  the  east.  CE.  d.  oreophila,  slightly  larger 
with  more  white  in  the  wing-quills  breeds  in  Baltistan,  Ladakh  and 
Lahul  but  winters  south-west  of  our  limits.  This  species  must  not 
be  confused  with  the  Isabelline  Wheatear  (CEnanthe  tsabellina),  also  a 
winter  visitor  to  North-western  India,  in  which  both  sexes  closely 
resemble  the  female  of  the  Desert  Wheatear  but  have  the  black  bar 
on  the  end  of  the  tail  narrower. 

The  Red-tailed  Wheatear  (CEnanthe  xathoprymna),  common  about 
broken  land  in  North-western  India,  has  the  tail  chestnut  with  a  black 
terminal  band  that  is  much  as  in  the  Blue-throat,  but  its  habits 
which  are  like  those  of  the  Desert  Wheatear  distinguish  it  from  the 
skulking  Bluethroat. 

Habits,  etc. — This  is  a  true  denizen  of  the  desert,  being  generally 
distributed  and  common  in  the  wide  arid  plains  of  North-western 
India,  where  it  prefers  the  more  barren  and  sandy  wastes,  though  it 
comes  also  into  cultivation  where  this  is  interspersed  with  barren 
patches.  It  is  particularly  fond  of  broken  ground,  either  sandy  or 
rocky,  and  of  old  cultivation  which  has  reverted  to  desert.  It  spends 
most  of  its  time  on  the  ground,  perching  on  stones  and  little  eminences 
or  on  the  wild  caper  bushes  and  uck  plants  that  are  common  in  the 
localities  it  inhabits  ;  from  such  spots  it  hops  or  flies  to  the  ground 
to  capture  beetles  and  other  insects,  occasionally  darting  up  into  the 
air  to  take  insects  on  the  wing.  It  arrives  in  India  later  than  most 
of  the  Wheatears,  about  the  middle  of  October,  and  leaves  again  in 
February  and  early  March.  It  flies  well  but  keeps  low  above  the 
ground  and  practically  never  perches  on  trees. 

This  species,  in  the  race  CE.  d.  oreophila,  just  nests  in  Indian  terri- 
tory in  farther  Kashmir  and  Lahul  on  the  barren  hillsides  and  sandy 
plains  at  elevations  of  10,000  to  12,000  feet. 

The  nest  is  placed  in  burrows,  under  bushes,  and  in  holes  in 
walls.  It  is  a  shapeless  mass  pf  grass,  fine  roots  and  twigs,  wool, 
hair,  and  other  materials,  in  which  a  shallow  hollow  is  lined  with 
hair  and  a  few  feathers. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  to  five  eggs  ;  these  are  pale  bluish- 
green  speckled  and  spotted  with  rusty-red. 

In  size  they  average  about  0-80  by  0-56  inches. 


94  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

THE  BROWN  ROCK-CHAT 

CERCOMELA  FUSCA  (Blyth) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  whole  plumage 
dull  rufous-brown,  redder  on  the  sides  of  the  head  and  lower  parts ; 
tail  very  dark  brown. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Field  Identification. — Plains  species,  frequenting  ruins,  outskirts 
of  towns,  old  brickyards  and  low  rocky  hills  ;  a  plain  dark-brown 
bird  familiar  in  demeanour,  coming  into  occupied  buildings. 

Distribution. — This  is  purely  an  Indian  species  and  is  confined 
to  a  patch  of  country  in  the  centre  of  the  Peninsula,  including  the 
Southern  and  Eastern  Punjab,  the  United  Provinces,  Chota  Nagpur, 
the  extreme  North-east  of  the  Central  Provinces,  and  Rajputana  as 
far  east  as  Cutch. 

Habits ,  etc. — The  Brown  Rock-Chat  is  a  common  and /familiar 
species  found  both  in  arid  stony  wastes,  in  deep  ravines  and  earthy 
cliffs,  on  rocky  hills,  and  in  and  about  villages  and  towns.  It  is  a 
great  frequenter  of  buildings,  flitting  in  and  out  of  the  empty 
chambers  and  gaping  windows  of  ancient  palaces  and  forts, 
perching  in  the  cornices  of  tombs  and  mosques,  and  living  even 
in  the  more  frequented  houses  and  offices  of  the  work-a-day  world, 
the  friend  alike  of  rich  and  poor.  It  comes  into  rooms  even  when 
there  are  people  moving  and  talking  within  ;  it  is  a  regular  Wheatear 
in  its  habits,  flying  from  ground  to  roof-ridge,  from  window  to  cornice, 
with  the  strong  direct  flight  of  those  birds  ;  its  food  consists  of  insects, 
beetles,  ants,  and  the  like,  which  it  captures  on  the  ground,  flying  down 
from  the  elevated  situations  where  it  perches.  During  the  breeding 
season  it  becomes  rather  pugnacious  and  readily  attacks  squirrels, 
rats,  lizards,  and  birds  in  the  neighbourhood  of  the  nest. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  February  to  August,  but  most  eggs 
will  be  found  in  March  and  April.  Two  or  three  broods  are  reared 
in  a  year,  sometimes  in  the  same  nest. 

The  nest  is  a  shallow,  loosely-constructed  cup  of  grass-roots, 
wool,  hair,  and  similar  materials,  sometimes  separately  lined  with 
wool  and  hair ;  occasionally  it  is  supported  by  a  little  heap  of  small 
stones  and  fragments  of -clay.  It  is  built  in  holes  in  rocks,  buildings, 
and  stone  walls,  and  when  in  buildings  may  be  placed  on  shelves  and 
rafters  without  any  attempt  at  concealment. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  three  eggs,  but  four  or  five  are 
sometimes  laid. 

The  egg  is  a  moderately  broad  oval,  rather  pointed  towards  the 
small  end  ;  the  texture  is  fine  with  a  good  deal  of  gloss.  The 


THE    SPOTTED    FORKTAIL  95 

ground-colour  is  a  most  delicate  pale  pure  blue ;  the  markings 
consist  of  tiny  specks  and  spots  of  reddish-brown,  which  tend  to 
collect  in  a  zone  round  the  broad  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-82  by  0-62  inches. 


THE    SPOTTED    FORKTAIL 
ENICURUS  MACULATUS  Vigors 

Description. — Length  n  inches,  including  a  long,  deeply-forked 
tail  of  6  inches.  Sexes  alike.  A  patch  on  the  forehead  and  crown, 
a  large  patch  on  the  rump,  and  the  lower  plumage  from  the  breast 
downwards  white  ;  remainder  of  body  plumage  black,  with  round 
white  spots  on  the  hind  neck,  and  lunate  white  spots  on  the  back ; 
feathers  of  the  lower  breast  spotted  with  white  ;  a  broad  white  bar 
across  the  wing ;  the  inner  flight-feathers  marked  with  white  ;  tail 
black,  the  feathers  white  at  the  base  and  broadly  tipped  with  white, 
and  the  two  outer  pairs  entirely  white. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  white. 

Field  Identification. — A  Himalayan  bird  with  a  peculiar  loud  call, 
found  on  mountain  streams  in  forest ;  pied  black  and  white,  with  a 
deeply-forked  tail  which  droops  at  the  end,  and  is  incessantly  swayed 
up  and  down.  The  markings  on  the  upper  surface  form  in  life  a 
white  St  Andrew's-Cross  on  a  black  ground. 

Distribution. — The  Spotted  Forktail  is  found  throughout  the 
Himalayas,  and  farther  eastwards  through  Assam  and  Siam  to  China. 
It  is  divided  into  several  races,  of  which  two  are  Himalayan.  The 
typical  race  is  found  throughout  the  Western  Himalayas  from  3000 
to  12,000  feet  from  the  extreme  North-western  Frontier  to  Nepal. 
From  Nepal  eastwards  to  Sikkim  and  Assam,  and  still  farther  east, 
it  is  replaced  by  E.  m.  guttatus  which  has  no  white  spots  on  the  breast. 
This  race  is  found  in  the  Himalayas  between  2000  and  8000  feet. 
A  resident  species,  though  it  probably  changes  its  elevation  slightly 
at  different  seasons. 

The  Slaty-backed  Forktail  (Enicurus  schistaceus),  common  in  the 
Eastern  Himalayas,  is  of  the  same  type  with  a  long  forked  tail. 
The  crown  to  the  lower  back  are  slaty  blue-grey.  The  Little  Forktail 
(Microcichla  scouleri\  however,  found  throughout  the  Himalayas,  has 
a  very  short  tail,  but  little  more  than  half  the  wing  in  length. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Forktail  is  a  water-bird,  strictly  confined  to 
running  streams  in  hill  ravines,  preferably  those  that  flow  under 
fairly  thick  forest.  It  feeds  on  insects  which  it  obtains  from  the 
water  and  the  stream-bed  ;  it  walks  sedately  over  the  stones  along 
the  margins  of  the  water,  feeding  with  a  quick  pecking  motion, 


96 


POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 


rather  similar  to  that  of  a  chicken  ;  and  as  it  goes  the  black  and 
white  plumage  blends  marvellously  with  the  glint  of  flowing  water 
and  the  dark  shadows  amongst  the  stones  so  that  it  is  seldom  noticed 
till  it  takes  to  flight.  It  has  a  habit  of  frequently  and  unexpectedly 
turning  at  right  angles  or  from  side  to  side,  and  now  and  again  it 
advances  with  little  tripping  runs,  the  white  legs  passing  over  the 
slippery  stones  with  a  sure-footed  celerity.  Standing  and  moving, 
the  beautiful  forked  tail  is  always  a  characteristic  feature,  slowly 
swaying  upwards  and  downwards. 

The  call  is  a  loud,  rather  plaintive  cheeer,  uttered  both  on  the 


FIG.  i ^—Spotted  Forktail     (I  nat.  size) 


ground  and  in  flight,  and  it  is  usually  the  first  intimation  of  the 
presence  of  the  bird  that  flies  up  from  the  bed  of  a  stream  that  one 
is  slowly  climbing  and  settles  again  by  the  water  some  fifty  yards 
or  so  above  ;  again  one  disturbs  it  and  the  manoeuvre  is  repeated. 
Then  as  one  reaches  the  limit  of  its  territory  it  leaves  the  stream, 
and  slipping  through  the  neighbouring  forest  regains  the  water  below 
one  and  starts  to  feed  again  ;  occasionally  for  a  few  minutes  it  perches 
on  a  bough  of  a  tree,  but  this  is  seldom. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  April  till  June. 

The  nest  is  a  most  compact  and  heavy  cup  of  green  moss  mixed 
with  fine  roots  and  a  good  deal  of  clay ;  the  cavity  is  lined  with 
skeletonised  leaves.  It  is  placed  near  the  water,  in  a  niche  of  rock 
or  a  hollow  of  the  bank,  or  amongst  the  roots  of  a  tree. 


THE   SPOTTED   FORKTAIL  97 

The  clutch  usually  consists  of  three  eggs,  but  four  are  sometimes 
laid.  The  egg  is  a  rather  elongated  and  pointed  oval,  fine  in  texture 
with  very  little  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  pale  greenish  or  pale 
stone-colour,  and  the  markings  consist  of  fine  spots  and  freckles  of 
yellowish-  or  reddish-brown,  evenly  and  often  thinly  distributed. 

The  egg  measures  about  O'68  by  0-75  inches. 


THE    BLACK    REDSTART 

PHCENICURUS  OCHRURUS  (Gmelin) 
(Plate  viii,  Fig.  i,  opposite  page  154) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Male  in  fresh  autumn  plumage  : 
Body  plumage  black,  more  or  less  concealed  by  grey  fringes  which 
wear  off  as  the  winter  progresses  so  that  the  bird  gradually  becomes 
blacker  in  appearance  ;  the  hinder  parts  from  the  rump  and  abdomen 
orange  chestnut,  except  the  central  pair  of  tail-feathers  which  are 
brown  ;  flight-feathers  and  the  larger  coverts  brown  edged  with  rufous. 

Female  :  Brown  tinged  with  fulvous,  paler  below  and  suffused 
with  orange  from  the  abdomen  downwards  ;  a  pale  ring  round  the 
eye  ;  rump  and  tail  chestnut,  the  central  pair  of  feathers  brown. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Field  Identification. — Abundant  winter  visitor  to  the  plains,  easily 
distinguished  from  all  other  birds  by  its  habit  of  shivering  the  reddish 
tail  at  short  intervals. 

Distribution. — The  Black  Redstart  is  a  widely-spread  species 
occurring  almost  throughout  Europe  and  Asia  and  in  portions  of 
Africa.  In  this  immense  range  it  is  divided  into  a  number  of  races  all 
very  similar  in  appearance,  of  which  two  are  to  be  found  in  our  area. 
P.  o.  phosnicuroides  breeds  in  Persia,  Turkestan,  and  Afghanistan, 
and  in  the  mountains  of  Baluchistan  ;  it  also  breeds  in  the  high 
mountain  areas,  over  10,000  feet,  of  Kashmir,  Ladakh,  and  Western 
Tibet  north  of  the  Central  Himalayan  range,  where  forest  country 
has  given  place  to  the  desolate  barren  valleys  and  mountains  beyond 
the  reach  of  the  monsoons.  In  the  winter,  from  September  to  April, 
it  migrates  to  the  plains  of  North-western  India,  extending  south  as 
far  as  Northern  Guzerat.  P.  o.  rufiventris  occupies  a  more  eastern 
range,  breeding  from  Tibet  to  China  and  wintering  in  South-western 
China,  Burma,  Assam,  and  North-eastern,  Central,  and  Southern  India. 
This  form  was  noticed  as  high  as  20,000  feet  on  migration  by  the 
Everest  Expedition. 

The  Blue-fronted  Redstart  (Phomicurus  frontalis),  easily  recognis- 
able amongst  the  members  of  its  genus  by  the  black  terminal  band 

G 


98  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

to  the  chestnut  tail,  breeds  in  a  high  zone  about  10,000  feet  in  the 
Himalayas.  In  winter  it  is  common  about  the  hill  stations. 

Habits,  etc. — Those  who  are  fortunate  enough  to  travel  in  the 
high  Himalayas  in  summer  in  the  barren  uplands  of  Kashmir  and 
Ladakh,  Tibet,  Spiti,  and  Lahul,  will  recognise  in  the  Black 
Redstart  one  of  the  most  familiar  of  the  roadside  birds — all  the 
more  conspicuous  because  of  the  general  scarcity  of  bird-life.  They 
flit  about  the  stones  and  boulders  and  roadside  walls,  now  indulging 
in  a  pleasing  song  with  wheezy  jingling  notes  and  trills,  now  indicat- 
ing the  neighbourhood  of  eggs  or  young  by  the  low  anxious  alarm 
note ;  and  all  the  time  amongst  their  restless  movements  the  charac- 
teristic shiver  of  the  tail  is  seen.  There  up  on  the  breeding  grounds 
the  bird  is  very  shy  and  cautious,  but  in  the  winter  when  it  descends 
to  the  Indian  plains  this  trait  is  lost  and  it  becomes  one  of  the  most 
pleasant  and  friendly  of  our  garden  birds ;  in  fact  its  whole  character 
appears  to  change  and  only  the  shiver  of  the  tail  remains  to  recall 
our  friend  of  the  barren  heights.  In  India  it  is  essentially  a  bird 
of  open  smiling  cultivation  and  pleasant  fertile  gardens  :  it  haunts 
the  shade,  not  of  deep  groves  and  jungles  but  little  patches  of  shade 
amongst  the  sunshine,  perching  on  the  lower  branches  of  trees  and 
flying  down  ever  and  anon  to  the  ground  to  pick  up  its  insect  food. 
The  call  then  is  a  curious  little  croak. 

As  in  most  birds  that  breed  at  high  elevations  the  breeding  season 
is  late,  eggs  being  laid  in  June.  The  nest  is  a  large  substantial  cup  of 
fine  twigs,  bents,  roots,  grass  stems,  moss,  and  similar  materials,  lined 
with  shreds  of  grass,  hair,  and  feathers.  It  is  placed  in  walls  (which 
are  built  of  loose  stones  and  without  mortar  in  countries  where  this 
species  breeds)  or  under  stones  on  the  steep  hill-sides. 

The  clutch  consists  of  four  to  six  eggs.  The  eggs  are  of  two  types, 
very  pale  greenish-blue  or  almost  pure  white,  with  a  slight  gloss  but 
no  markings. 

They  measure  about  0-80  by  0-60  inches. 


THE    WHITE-CAPPED    REDSTART 

CHAIMARRHORNIS  LEUCOCEPHALA  (Vigors) 
(Plate  viii,  Fig.  4,  opposite  page  1 54) 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Top  of  the  head 
shining  white  ;  rest  of  the  head,  neck,  back,  breast,  and  wings  black  ; 
the  rump  and  lower  plumage  from  the  breast  downwards  bright 
chestnut ;  tail  chestnut,  a  black  band  across  the  tip. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Field  Identification. — A  bird  of  the  Himalayan  streams  and  rivers 


THE    WHITE-CAPPED    REDSTART  99 

where  they  are  not  closed  in  with  trees.  Quite  unmistakable  with 
shining  white  cap,  black  and  chestnut  plumage,  and  chestnut  tail 
ending  in  a  black  bar. 

Distribution. — The  White-capped  Redstart  is  found  from  the  hills 
of  Baluchistan  and  the  Afghan  frontier  right  along  the  Himalayas 
and  farther  east  to  Western  China,  occurring  in  all  the  higher  mountain 
systems  of  this  area.  It  breeds  at  elevations  between  6000  and  16,000 
feet,  individuals  wandering  even  higher,  but  the  majority  of  nests 
are  certainly  to  be  found  between  8000  and  13,000  feet.  During 
the  winter  it  descends  from  high  altitudes  and  is  common  along  all 
the  rivers  of  the  foot-hills  to  the  edge  of  the  plains. 

Habits,  etc. — This  lovely  Redstart  is  familiar  to  all  who  have 
done  much  travelling  in  the  higher  altitudes  of  the  Himalayas.  It 
is  strictly  a  water-bird  dwelling  on  rivers  and  mountain  streams, 
whether  they  flow  amongst  the  verdant  slopes  and  wooded  precipices 
of  the  Outer  Himalayas  or  through  the  barren  valleys  of  the  Inner 
and  Central  Himalayas  where  stony  scree  and  tortuous  glaciers  wind 
down  from  the  snow-clad  peaks.  In  the  desolation  of  the  latter 
surroundings  the  beautiful  plumage  and  the  cheerful  ways  of  the 
bird  readily  attract  the  attention  of  the  traveller. 

It  is  pre-eminently  a  bird  of  the  boulders  amongst  rushing  water, 
and  often  drifts  of  snow,  flying  swiftly  from  bank  to  bank  or  fly- 
catching  with  little  erratic  flights  from  stone  to  stone,  its  loud  plaintive 
squeak  t-e-e-e-e  being  easily  heard  amongst  the  roar  of  the  waters. 
During  the  breeding  season  different  pairs  have  their  territory  defined 
along  the  torrents  where  they  live. 

As  with  most  Redstarts,  the  tail  is  an  expressive  organ.  Con- 
tinuously the  bird  beats  it  up  and  down  from  well  above  the  line 
of  the  back,  almost  to  touch  the  stone  on  which  it  is  sitting,  and  the 
action  is  frequently  accompanied  with  a  low  bow  ;  this  is  done  with 
the  feathers  closed  or  only  partly  spread  ;  but  as  the  bird  launches 
into  flight  or  settles  the  tail  is  spread  into  a  fan  for  a  moment,  a  glorious 
glimpse  of  chestnut  and  black. 

This  species  is  stronger  in  flight  than  the  Plumbeous  Redstart, 
and  profits  by  the  fact  to  leave  the  stream-beds  and  pay  hasty  visits 
to  wet,  mossy  cliffs,  steep  marshy  hill-sides,  and  similar  situations. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  May  till  August,  but  most  nests 
will  be  found  in  July.  The  nest  is  a  rather  deep  and  massive  cup 
of  moss,  leaves,  roots,  and  grass,  with  a  thick  lining  of  wool  and  hair. 
It  is  placed  in  a  hole  of  a  wall  or  bank  beside  the  water,  or  more  rarely 
under  a  stone  or  amongst  the  roots  of  a  tree. 

The  eggs  vary  from  three  to  five  in  number,  but  the  ordinary 
clutch  consists  of  four  eggs. 

In  shape  they  are  broad  ovals  with  only  a  slight  gloss  ;  the  ground- 
colour is  a  pale  blue  or  blue-green,  sometimes  tinged  with  pink,  and 


ioo          POPULAR   HANDBOOK    OF   INDIAN   BIRDS 

the  markings  consist  of  specks  and  spots  of  reddish-brown,  with 
underlying  markings  of  grey  and  neutral  tint.  These  markings  vary 
in  number  and  intensity,  occasionally  collecting  into  a  cap  at  the 
broad  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-96  by  0*65  inches. 


THE    PLUMBEOUS    REDSTART 
RHYACORNIS  FULIGINOSA  (Vigors) 

(Plate  viii,  Fig.  2,  opposite  page  154) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Male :  The  whole  plumage  dull 
plumbeous-slate  except  the  tail  which  is  bright  chestnut. 

Female :  The  whole  upper  plumage  dull  bluish-brown,  the  tail 
white  with  a  large  triangle  of  brown  at  the  end  ;  wings  brown,  edged 
with  pale  rufous ;  lower  plumage  ashy-brown  squamated  with  ashy- 
white. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  dark  brown. 

Field  Identification. — Himalayan  species.  Never  seen  away  from 
running  water,  perching  on  the  boulders  and  fluttering  from  them 
into  the  air.  Male,  blackish-slate  with  a  chestnut  tail ;  female,  grey 
with  a  white  tail,  tipped  triangularly  with  brown. 

Distribution. — The  Plumbeous  Redstart  is  found  throughout  the 
whole  length  of  the  Himalayas,  where  it  breeds  commonly  from  4000 
to  9000  feet  and  in  smaller  numbers  up  to  13,000  feet,  though  it  is 
certainly  unusual  to  find  it  above  10,000  feet.  During  the  winter 
it  leaves  the  higher  portion  of  its  habitat  and  is  then  found  from 
6000  feet  right  down  to  the  foot-hills.  Apart  from  this  altitudinal 
movement  it  is  a  resident  species. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Plumbeous  Redstart  is  purely  a  water-bird, 
closely  wedded  to  the  streams  and  rivers  of  the  Himalayas,  eschewing 
their  wider  and  more  placid  reaches,  and  preferring  tumultuous  waters 
rushing  down  the  steeper  slopes  and  broken  by  large  boulders. 

These  graceful  little  birds  strike  the  notice  of  even  the  least 
observant.  No  stretch  of  stream  is  without  its  pair,  which  spend 
all  their  time  on  the  boulders  in  the  middle  of  the  rushing  water, 
with  occasional  excursions  to  the  bank  or  to  the  bough  of  some 
adjacent  tree.  They  flit  from  stone  to  stone  and  continuously  make 
erratic  little  fluttering  darts  into  the  air  after  some  passing  insect,  or 
snatch  some  morsel  from  the  water's  brim ;  as  they  settle,  the  con- 
spicuously-coloured tail,  chestnut  in  the  cock,  brown  and  white  in 
the  hen,  is  slightly  fanned  and  wagged  up  and  down,  the  two  move- 
ments being  simultaneous  and  repeated  at  intervals  until  the  next 
incursion  into  the  air.  This  movement  of  the  white  tail  has  been 


THE    PLUMBEOUS    REDSTART  101 

aptly  compared  to  the  scintillations  of  light  on  water  slightly  disturbed. 
They  are  as  quarrelsome  as  restless,  and  appear  to  have  sharply- 
defined  territories,  for  the  male  with  a  provocative  little  snatch  of 
song  is  always  launching  attacks  at  the  intruder  from  some  other 
territory,  dashing  at  it  regardless  of  sex  and  chasing  it  back  to  its 
own  borders.  The  short  song  is  rather  sweet  and  jingling  and  may 
be  heard  occasionally  in  winter  as  well  as  in  the  breeding  season. 
It  is  remarkably  similar  to  that  of  the  White-throated  Fantail 
Flycatcher  (L.  albicollis)  and  easily  confused  with  it.  It  is  uttered 
either  from  some  rock  in  midstream  or  in  the  air  as  the  little  bird 
slowly  flies  with  even  movement  but  rapidly  vibrating  wings  in  a 
short  parabola  from  rock  to  rock.  This  species  always  feeds  very 
late  into  the  dusk. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  April  to  July  and  two  broods 
appear  to  be  raised. 

The  nest  is  a  neat  cup  of  moss  mixed  with  a  few  leaves  and  roots 
and  lined  with  fine  roots  and  fibres  or  wool  and  hair.  It  is  placed 
in  any  sort  of  hole  or  hollow  provided  that  it  is  close  to  running 
water,  in  ivy  on  a  tree,  in  a  hole  in  a  trunk,  in  a  hole  of  a  rock  or 
bank  or  wall,  or  on  a  small  ledge.  Two  nests  will  occasionally  be 
found  a  few  inches  apart,  but  these  merely  represent  successive 
occupations  of  a  favoured  site. 

The  eggs  are  three  to  five  in  number,  but  four  is  the  normal  clutch. 

They  are  more  or  less  broad  ovals  in  shape,  rather  pointed  towards 
the  small  end,  of  a  fine  texture  and  with  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground- 
colour is  a  pale  greenish-white  or  sometimes  a  faint  stone-colour, 
almost  entirely  obscured  by  the  markings,  which  consist  of  a  mottling 
and  freckling  of  somewhat  pale  and  dingy  yellowish-  or  reddish-brown. 
These  markings  have  a  tendency  to  collect  in  a  cap  at  the  broad  end. 
The  eggs  greatly  resemble  miniatures  of  the  eggs  of  the  White-capped 
Redstart. 

They  measure  about  0-76  by  0-60  inches. 


THE    BLUETHROAT 

CYANOSYLVIA  SVECICA  (Linnaeus) 
(Plate  ix,  Fig.  6,  opposite  page  176) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Fully  adult  male  in  breeding 
plumage  :  The  whole  upper  plumage  and  wings  brown  ;  tail  brown, 
a  conspicuous  chestnut  patch  in  the  base  broken  by  the  central  pair 
of  feathers  ;  a  fulvous  line  over  the  eye  ;  chin  and  throat  bright  blue, 
with  a  chestnut  spot  in  the  centre  of  the  blue  ;  below  the  blue  a 
blackish  band  and  below  this  a  broader  band  of  chestnut ;  remainder 

G2 


102         POPULAR   HANDBOOK   OF   INDIAN   BIRDS 

of  lower  plumage  buffish-white.  The  blue  and  chestnut  of  the  lower 
plumage  vary  according  to  age,  season  and  race  and  in  some  speci- 
mens are  almost  absent.  Occasionally  the  chestnut  spot  is  entirely 
absent  or  is  replaced  by  a  white  spot. 

Female  :  Differs  from  the  male  in  having  the  whole  lower  plumage 
buffish-white  with  a  gorget  of  brown  spots  across  the  breast. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  black,  fleshy  at  base  of  lower  mandible  ;  legs 
yellowish-brown . 

Field  Identification. — A  brownish  bird,  found  on  the  ground  in 
herbage,  preferably  in  damp  localities  ;  rises  at  one's  feet  with  a 
conspicuous  flash  of  the  bright  chestnut  patches  in  the  tail  and  dives 
into  cover  again  a  few  yards  ahead.  Males  have  a  varying  amount 
of  blue  and  chestnut  on  the  throat  and  breast. 

Distribution. — The  Bluethroat  is  a  very  widely  distributed 
Palaearctic  species,  occurring  in  different  forms  through  the  greater 
part  of  Europe,  Asia,  and  Northern  Africa.  The  exact  number  of 
races  and  their  distribution  has-  not  yet  been  satisfactorily  worked 
out,  but  the  majority  of  birds  met  with  in  India  belong  to  the  form 
C.  s.  pallidogularis,  which  certainly  breeds  from  West  Turkestan  to 
East  Transcaspia  and  to  the  Southern  Urals,  and  in  winter  migrates 
to  almost  the  whole  of  India  and  Ceylon.  Two  other  races  certainly 
occur  in  India ;  the  dark  Central  Siberian  bird,  C.  s.  robusta,  is  a 
winter  visitor  to  the  north-east,  while  C.  s.  abbotti  migrates  through 
the  north-west ;  this  is  the  form  which  breeds  in  Ladakh  and  is 
distinguished  by  the  brilliant  blue  of  the  throat  and  by  the  fact  that 
the  chestnut  throat  spot  is  often  lacking  or  replaced  by  white.  In 
this  race  the  female  in  breeding  plumage  is  similar  to  the  male. 

The  allied  Rubythroat  (Calliope  calliope) ,  with  the  upper  plumage 
olive-brown  and  a  brilliant  patch  of  ruby-scarlet  on  the  throat,  is 
common  in  winter  in  North-east  India  down  to  the  Godavari.     It ' 
breeds  in  Northern  Asia. 

The  much  darker  Himalayan  Rubythroat  (Calliope  pectoralis)  in 
which  the  ruby  throat  is  set  in  a  deep  black  breast  breeds  along  the 
whole  of  the  Himalayas  at  high  elevations.  It  is  common  on  open 
hill-sides  in  Kashmir. 

Habits,  etc. — From  September  until  May  the  Bluethroat  is  a 
common  species  in  India  either  as  a  passage  migrant  or  a  winter 
visitor,  but  its  movements  have  not  yet  been  properly  worked  out. 
It  does  not  breed  nearer  than  Ladakh.  Although  extremely 
common  at  certain  times  and  places  it  escapes  observation  through 
its  skulking  habits.  It  is  a  bird  of  the  ground  and  heavy  cover, 
preferring  dampish  spots,  such  as  reed-beds  on  the  edge  of  jheels, 
tamarisk  thickets  in  river-beds,  heavy  standing  crops  and  similar 
situations.  In  these  it  feeds  on  the  ground,  only  occasionally 
ascending  to  the  top  of  the  bushes  to  look  around.  Ordinarily  it  is 


THE   BLUETHROAT  103 

only  seen  when  one  walks  through  cover,  as  it  dashes  up  at  one's 
feet  and  flies  a  few  yards  before  diving  headlong  again  into  obscurity, 
where  it  runs  rapidly  along  the  ground  in  short  bursts  ;  at  the  end 
of  each  course  of  running  the  tail  is  elevated  and  slightly  expanded  ; 
the  dark  brown  tail  with  its  bright  chestnut  base  is  very  conspicuous 
in  flight  and  readily  leads  to  identification.  The  alarm-note  and 
ordinary  call  is  a  harsh  tack,  but  on  its  breeding  grounds  this  Blue- 
throat  is  a  fine  songster  and  mimic. 

C.  s.  abbotti  breeds  in  Ladakh  in  June  and  July.  The  nest  is 
well  concealed  on  the  ground  at  the  base  of  thorny  bushes,  and  is 
a  cup  composed  of  dry  grass.  The  usual  clutch  consists  of  three 
or  four  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  rather  broad  oval,  fine  in  texture  with  a  slight  gloss. 
In  colour  it  is  a  dull,  uniform  sage-green,  with  or  without  pale  reddish 
freckling,  which  sometimes  almost  obscures  the  ground-colour. 

It  measures  about  0-75  by  0-55  inches. 


RED-FLANKED  BUSH  ROBIN 

IANTHIA  CYANURA  Pallas 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Male  :  Head  and  upper  parts, 
edges  of  wings,  sides  of  head  and  throat  down  to  breast  dark  blue  ; 
forehead  and  a  line  extending  above  the  eye  to  the  neck,  the  angle 
of  the  wings  and  upper  tail  coverts  bright  blue  ;  tail  black  on  inner 
webs,  suffused  with  blue  on  the  outer ;  middle  of  the  throat  and  a 
line  down  to  the  lower  breast  and  abdomen  dusky  white.  A  very 
conspicuous  patch  of  orange  chestnut  on  either  side  of  the  body. 

Iris  brown  ;   bill  dark  brown,  paWr  at  base  ;  legs  brown. 

The  males  at  first  are  indistinguishable  from  the  females  and 
some  breed  in  that  dress. 

Female  :  Dark  brown  above  and  on  sides  of  neck,  upper  tail 
covert  duller  than  in  the  male  ;  tail  brown  with  blue  edges  on  outer 
webs  of  feathers  ;  the  chin,  middle  of  throat  and  abdomen  white, 
breast  brownish.  An  orange  chestnut  patch  on  either  flank  as  in  male. 

Field  Identification. — The  blue  coloration  in  the  male  and  the 
brown  back  and  blue  upper  tail  coverts  of  the  female,  together  with 
the  patches  of  orange  chestnut  on  the  flanks  in  both  sexes,  are 
characteristic  of  this  bird. 

Distribution. — This  bird  has  a  wide  distribution  from  the  Urals 
right  across  Siberia  to  Japan,  and  southward  to  China,  the  Himalayas 
and  Indo- China.  It  has  been  divided  into  a  number  of  races  and 
two  occur  in  the  Himalayas.  From  Gilgit  to  Garhwal  the  form  is 
/.  c.  palltdiora,  and  Nepal  eastward  it  is  replaced  by  a  darker  bird, 
/.  c.  rufilata. 


io4          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

Habits,  etc.— The  Red-flanked  Bush  Robin  breeds  in  the  higher 
Himalayas  in  open  forest  of  Kharshu  oak,  birch,  silver  and  other 
firs,  from  6000  to  12,000  feet.  In  autumn  most  birds  move  down  to 
a  level  from  5000  to  8000  feet,  occasionally  to  the  edge  of  the  plains, 
but  a  few  pass  the  winter  in  their  breeding  haunts.  This  is  a  shy 
bird  even  in  the  breeding  season  and  its  habits  are  rather  similar  to 
the  Continental  Robin.  In  the  non-breeding  season  it  delights  in 
open  spaces  surrounded  by  trees  or  other  cover,  and  scrub  jungle 
skirting  roads.  It  feeds  chiefly  on  the  ground.  There  is  no  song, 
only  a  monotonous  three-noted  call  uttered  at  regular  intervals,  in 
which  the  middle  note  is  lower  than  the  other  two. 

It  breeds  from  May  to  June.  The  nest  is  constructed  of  dry 
grass  with  finer  pieces  and  ofteja  Musk  Deer  hair.  It  is  placed  in  a 
variety  of  situations,  among  the  roots  of  a  fallen  tree,  on  a  steep  slope, 
in  a  hole  in  a  bank,  or  under  a  fallen  tree.  At  lower  levels  the  nests 
are  usually  in  fairly  thick  cover,  but  at  all  times  it  is  well  concealed 
and  protected  by  herbage  or  roots. 

The  clutch  consists  of  from  three  to  five  eggs.  They  are  broad 
ovals,  sometimes  rather  pointed,  pure  white  with  a  faint  tinge  of 
green  and  fine  small  specks  of  reddish-brown  at  the  larger  end, 
occasionally  without  any  markings. 

The  eggs  measure  0-7  by  0-55  inches. 


THE    INDIAN    ROBIN 

SAXICOLOIDES  FULICATA  (Linnaeus) 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Male  :  Glossy  black  with  a  blue 
sheen  ;  a  white  patch  on  the  shoulder  ;  flight-feathers  brown  ;  centre 
of  abdomen  and  a  conspicuous  patch  under  the  tail  deep  chestnut. 

Female  :  Upper  plumage  dark  brown,  the  front  and  sides  of  the 
face  paler,  the  tail  much  darker,  almost  black ;  centre  of  abdomen 
and  a  conspicuous  patch  under  the  tail  deep  chestnut. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

The  bill  is  slender  and  rather  curved ;  the  tail  is  rather  long  and 
rounded  at  the  end. 

Field  Identification. — A  familiar  plains  bird,  coming  freely  round 
houses  and  spending  most  of  its  time  on  the  ground.  Easily  identified 
by  the  habit  of  holding  the  long  tail  erect  so  as  to  exhibit  a  bright 
Chestnut  patch  below  its  base  ;  the  male  has  a  conspicuous  white 
shoulder-patch  and  much  black  glossed  with  steely-blue  in  its  plumage. 

Distribution. — The  Indian  Robin  is  found  throughout  the  whole 
of  India  from  the  Himalayas  southwards  to  Ceylon.  The  typical 
black-backed  race  with  a  very  dark,  almost  black  female  is  found 


THE    INDIAN    ROBIN 


105 


in  Ceylon.  S.  f.  cambaiensis  occurs  throughout  Northern  India  from 
the  hills  of  the  North-west  Frontier  Province  along  the  fringe  of  the 
Outer  Himalayas  to  Eastern  Bengal  and  southwards.  In  this  race 
the  male  has  the  back  brown  while  the  female  is  grey  and  brown  in 
colour.  Between  the  two,  races  connecting  them  may  be  recognised. 
These  are  first  S.  f.  intermedia  which  occurs  in  a  broad  belt  right 
across  the  centre  of  the  Peninsula,  bounded  on  the  north  by  a  line 
from  the  River  Tapti  to  Vizagapatam  district  and  on  the  south  by 
the  Krishna  River  ;  and  secondly  S.  f.  ptymatura  which  occupies 
the  rest  of  South  India.  They 
bridge  the  colour  differences 
between  the  first  two  forms. 
All  four  races  are  strictly  resi- 
dent. 

Habits,  etc. — Those  who  like 
to  dilate  on  the  theme  that  the 
East  is  topsy-turvy  often  quote 
the  Indian  Robin  amongst  their 
numerous  illustrations,  pointing 
out  that  he  wears  his  red  under 
his  tail  instead  of  on  his  breast ; 
for  this  bird,  while  in  no  sense 
a-  true  Robin,  somewhat  occupies 
in  India  the  place  of  the  Robin 
in  the  West.  It  is  a  familiar 
bird,  hanging  round  the  haunts 
of  men,  the  outskirts  of  villages,  FIG.  16 — Indian  Robin  (i  nat.  size) 
buildings  both  great  and  small, 

brick-kilns  and  similar  situations,  and  it  nests  in  a  variety  of  curious 
places  after  the  fashion  of  the  English  bird.  In  addition  it  is  also 
partial  to  stony,  barren  hill-sides  and  dry  ravines  ;  in  fact,  the 
essential  conditions  for  its  presence  are  dryness  and  open  country  ; 
in  damp  areas  and  in  heavy  forest  it  is  wanting. 

In  character  it  exhibits  the  curious  mixture  of  boldness  and 
suspicion  that  is  found  in  so  many  Indian  birds.  So  long  as 
unmolested,  it  hops  about  in  the  close  vicinity  of  men  and  women 
busy  at  their  own  tasks,  apparently  heedless  of  them  ;  but  at  the 
first  hint  of  danger  it  becomes  shy  and  unobtrusive.  In  the  same 
way,  though  the  nest  may  be  built  in  a  hole  in  a  stable  wall  or  similarly 
public  spot,  it  is  readily  deserted  if  attention  is  paid  to  it. 

In  demeanour  the  bird  is  very  sprightly,  hopping  about  with  the 
head  held  stiffly  high  and  the  tail  cocked  well  forward  over  the 
back ;  in  fact  its  normal  poise  is  that  of  the  English  Wren,  and  the 
bird  being  larger  with  a  longer  tail  the  attitude  appears  more 
exaggerated.  It  feeds  for  the  most  part  on  the  ground,  and  perches 


io6          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

by  preference  on  walls,  posts,  roofs,  and  large  gnarled  tree-trunks, 
rather  than  on  the  boughs  of  trees.  The  food  consists  chiefly  of 
insects  and  their  larvae. 

It  has  only  an  apology  for  a  song,  which  is  used  while  courting 
is  in  progress. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  March  to  August  and  two  or  three 
broods  are  reared,  often  in  the  same  nest  though  the  lining  is  usually 
replaced.  The  nest  is  placed  in  holes  in  all  sorts  of  situations  on  the 
ground,  in  walls  and  buildings,  and  in  plants.  It  is  a  pad  of  grass 
lined  with  miscellaneous  soft  materials,  roots  and  fibres,  wool  and 
hair,  varying  in  depth  and  neatness  of  construction  according  to  the 
circumstances  of  the  hole.  A  large  proportion  of  nests  contain  a 
fragment  of  snake's  slough. 

Three  to  five  eggs  are  laid.  The  egg  is  a  rather  elongated  oval, 
more  or  less  pointed  towards  the  small  end ;  the  texture  is  fine 
and  strong  with  a  moderate  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  white, 
faintly  tinged  with  green,  pink,  or  brownish  ;  the  general  character 
of  the  markings  is  a  fine  close  speckling  and  mottling  of  different 
shades  of  reddish-  or  yellowish-brown,  underlaid  with  a  few  secondary 
markings  of  pale  inky-purple  ;  there  is  a  tendency  for  the  markings 
to  be  thicker  about  the  broad  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-79  by  0-59  inches. 


THE    MAGPIE-ROBIN 
COPSYCIIUS  SAULARIS  (Linnaeus) 

Description. — Length  8  inches.     Male  :    Head,  neck,  breast,  and 
upper  plumage  glossy  black  ;    remainder  of  lower  plumage  white  ; ' 
wing  black,  a  white  patch  close  to  the  body  ;  tail  long  and  graduated, 
the  two  central  pairs  of  feathers  black,  the  remainder  white. 

Female  :  The  whole  upper  plumage  uniform  dark  brown,  glossed 
with  bluish  ;  wings  and  tail  dark  brown,  with  white  distributed  as  in 
the  male.  Chin,  throat,  breast,  and  sides  of  the  neck  and  face  dark 
grey,  the  last  mottled  with  white  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  whitish 
washed  with  fulvous  on  the  flanks  and  under  the  tail. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  dark  plumbeous. 

Field  Identification. — Common  plains  species,  found  in  gardens 
and  familiar  in  habits,  with  a  beautiful  song  ;  the  male  conspicuously 
pied  black  and  white  with  a  longish  rounded  tail,  the  female  with  a 
duller  version  of  the  same  pattern.  Carries  the  tail  rather  elevated. 

Distribution. — The  Magpie-Robin  or  Dayal-bird  extends  throughout 
India  and  Ceylon  to  China  and  the  Malay  Islands,  and  in  this  wide 
range  is  divided  into  a  number  of  races. 


THE    MAGPIE-ROBIN 


107 


Within  our  area,  however  (except  in  the  extreme  south,  from  the 
Nilgiris  and  Bangalore  to  Travancore,  where  the  birds  grade  into 
the  Ceylon  race  C.  s.  ceylonensis),  all  birds  are  referable  to  the  typical 
form.  ' 

This  bird  is  found  alike  in  the  plains  and  in  the  hills  up  to 
about  4000  and  occasionally  to  6000  feet.  It  occurs  in  the  Outer 
Himalayas,  but  is  virtually  absent  from  Sind,  Cutch,  and  large 


FIG.  17 — Magpie-Robin    (J  nat.  size) 

portions  of  the  Punjab  and  desert  Rajputana.  Although  said  to  be 
only  a  winter  visitor  to  Mount  Aboo  and  Northern  Guzerat,  it  is 
usually  regarded  as  a  strictly  resident  species  ;  except  that  in  the 
Himalayas  it  ascends  a  couple  of  thousand  feet  in  the  breeding  season, 
and  also  penetrates  then  into  some  of  the  inner  valleys. 

Habits,  etc.  —  While  never  particularly  abundant  the  Magpie- 
Robin  is  very  generally  distributed  in  India,  avoiding  both  dense 
forest  and  open  bare  plain.  It  is  essentially  a  bird  of  groves,  and 
delights  to  move  about  on  the  ground  under  the  shelter  of  low  trees  ; 
thick  undergrowth  it  dislikes.  Naturally,  therefore,  it  is  a  familiar 
garden  bird,  delighting  in  the  mixed  chequer  of  sunshine  and  shade 
that  is  the  characteristic  of  an  Indian  garden  ;  it  hops  about  under 


io8  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

the  orange  and  pomegranate  trees,  pauses  for  a  moment  to  sip  the 
water  running  along  the  irrigation  channels,  and  then  flies  across 
amongst  the  trees  to  settle  on  some  lower  bough  or  on  the  garden 
wall  before  returning  to  its  quest  for  insects  on  the  ground.  It  is 
both  confiding  and  unobtrusive,  and  as  the  lady  of  the  house 
moves  about  her  garden  in  the  shade,  whether  she  be  Burra- 
Memsahib  or  some  humble  menial's  wife,  she  will  see  the  little  pied 
bird  watching  her  from  wall  or  bush  with  friendly  and  attentive 
scrutiny.  And  by  way  of  gratitude  for  shelter  and  protection  (or  so 
we  like  to  think  in  spite  of  prosaic  fact),  the  cock  bird  early  in  the 
morning  and  again  in  the  evening  mounts  to  the  topmost  bough  of 
one  of  the  garden  trees  and  pours  out  his  delicious  song.  For  the 
Magpie- Robin  is  one  of  the  best  songsters  in  a  land  where  singing 
birds  are  somewhat  scarce. 

The  tail  is  carried  very  high  over  the  back,  though  not  usually  as 
high  as  in  the  case  of  the  Indian  Robin  ;  it  is  frequently  lowered  and 
expanded  into  a  fan,  then  closed  and  jerked  up  again  over  the  back. 

The  food  is  obtained  for  the  most  part  on  the  ground  and  con- 
sists of  insects,  grasshoppers,  crickets,  ants,  beetles,  and  the  like  ;  a 
little  vegetable  matter,  and  an  occasional  earthworm  vary  this  diet. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  the  end  of  March  to  the  end  of 
July,  but  most  eggs  will  be  found  in  April  and  May.  The  nest  is 
placed  in  holes  in  tree-trunks,  in  banks  and  walls,  and  in  the  roofs  of 
houses.  It  is  a  cup  composed  of  roots,  grasses,  fibres,  and  feathers, 
with  very  little  definite  lining,  and  varying  a  good  deal  in  depth  and 
compactness  of  construction,  according  to  the  circumstances  of  the 
hole. 

The  clutch  usually  consists  of  five  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  typical  oval,  hard  and  fine  in  texture  with  a  fair 
amount  of  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  some  shade  of  green  but  is* 
rather  variable.  The  markings  consist  of  streaks,  blotches,  and 
mottlings  of  brownish-red,  usually  densely  laid  on  and  with  a  tendency 
to  be  thicker  about  the  broad  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-87  by  o*  66  inches. 


THE    SHAMA 

KlTTACINCLA  MALABARICA   (Scopoli) 

Description. — Length  n  inches,  including  a  long  graduated  tail 
of  6  inches.  Male  :  A  patch  above  the  base  of  the  tail  white  ; 
remainder  of  upper  plumage,  wings,  and  lower  plumage  to  the  lower 
breast  glossy  black  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  bright  chestnut 
except  the  thighs  which  are  whitish  ;  tail  black,  all  but  the  two  central 
pairs  of  feathers  broadly  white  at  the  ends. 


THE    SHAMA  109 

Female  :  Resembles  the  male,  but  the  black  is  replaced  by  slaty- 
brown,  and  the  chestnut  by  rufous ;  feathers  of  the  wings  narrowly 
edged  with  rufous. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  pale  flesh-colour. 

Field  Identification.— A  forest  bird,  found  in  thick  jungle  about 
ravines  and  remarkable  for  its  beautiful  song ;  the  male  is  black 
with  chestnut  belly  and  much  white  about  the  long  graduated  tail ; 
the  female  plumage  is  a  duller  version  of  the  same  pattern. 

Distribution. — The  Shama  is  widely  distributed  in  India,  Ceylon, 
Burma,  Siam,  the  Malays  and  China,  and  is  divided  into  various  races. 

The  typical  race  of  the  Shama  is  found  along  the  western  side  of , 


FIG.  1 8 — Shama     (J  nat.  size) 

India,  from  Bombay  to  Travancore,  and  up  the  eastern  side  as  far  as 
Orissa  and  the  Rajmehal  Hills ;  also  in  the  submontane  tracts  of 
the  United  Provinces  as  far  west  as  Ramnagar  below  Naini  Tal. 
The  Burmese  race  K.  m.  indica,  with  a  shorter  tail,  extends  through 
Assam  into  the  Duars  and  in  the  jungles  of  South-eastern  Bengal. 
K.  m.  leggd  in  Ceylon  is  very  different  in  that  the  female  is  similar 
to  the  male  in  colour.  It  is  a  resident  species,  occurring  in  warm 
well-watered  jungles  up  to  a  height  of  4000  feet. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Shama  is  well  known  by  repute  and  in  story 
as  one  of  the  famous  singing  birds  of  India,  but  owing  to  its  forest 
habitat  and  its  shyness  it  is  probably  known  by  sight  to 
comparatively  few  people.  It  lives  in  jungles  and  forest  wherever 
broken  ravines  and  low  hills  supply  a  sufficiency  of  the,  small  streams 
and  open  glades  to  which  it  is  partial ;  and  the  spots  that  it 
frequents  generally  contain  a  good  deal  of  bamboo  growth.  It  feeds 
mostly  on  the  ground,  searching  for  insects,  worms  and  fallen  fruits, 
but  when  disturbed  flies  up  into  the  trees.  In  short,  this  species  may 
be  considered  as  taking  in  forest  the  place  occupied  by  the  Magpie- 
Robin  in  open  and  inhabited  country. 


no  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

The  song  is  loud  and  beautiful  with  a  varied  range  of  notes,  and 
it  is  chiefly  uttered  in  the  mornings  and  evenings,  continuing  late  in 
the  evening  until  darkness  has  practically  fallen. 

This  bird  has  a  curious  habit,  chiefly  in  the  breeding  season,  of 
striking  the  wings  together  above  the  body  as  it  flies  across  open 
ground. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  April  to  June.  The  nest  is  usually 
placed  in  the  base  of  bamboo  clumps  amidst  the  mass  of  rubbish 
which  collects  in  such  situations  and  which  forms  a  shelter  over  the 
nest ;  the  nest  itself  is  a  slight  cup  of  dead  leaves  and  moss  lined 
with  grass. 

The  clutch  consists  of  four  or  five  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  moderately  broad  oval,  rather  pointed  and 
compressed  towards  the  smaller  end,  fine  and  compact  in  texture 
with  a  fair  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  dull  greenish-stone,  finely 
and  densely  freckled  all  over  with  raw  sienna-brown  and  dull  purplish, 
the  general  effect  recalling  the  eggs  of  the  Larks. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-85  by  0-65  inches. 


THE    NILGIRI    BLACKBIRD 
TURDUS  SIMILLIMUS  Jerdon 

Description. — Length  10  inches.  Male  :  Top  of  the  head  black  ; 
remainder  of  upper  plumage  dark  ashy-plumbeous  ;  wings  and  tail 
black  washed  with  ashy ;  the  whole  lower  plumage  dark  ashy-brown, 
the  edges  of  the  feathers  slightly  paler. 

Female  :  The  whole  upper  plumage  dark  ashy-brown  ;  the  whole 
lower  plumage  brownish-grey,  streaked  on  the  chin  and  throat  with 
dark  brown. 

Iris  brown,  eye-rims  yellow ;  bill  reddish-orange ;  legs  orange- 
yellow. 

Field  Identification. — Abundant  in  the  Nilgiris  and  Palni  Hills. 
A  typical  forest  Blackbird  but  paler  in  colour  than  the  English  birds, 
so  that  a  black  cap  shows  up  in  the  male. 

Distribution. — Mount  Aboo  :  Peninsular  India,  south  of  a  line 
from  Khandesh  through  Pachmarhi  to  Sambalpur :  Ceylon.  The 
well-known  Nilgiri  Blackbird  gives  its  name  to  a  group  of  five 
closely-allied  sub-species,  which  differ  chiefly  in  depth  of  coloration. 
T.  s.  mahrattensis,  in  which  the  pale  collar  is  most  conspicuous,  is 
found  at  Mount  Aboo,  perhaps  as  a  summer  visitor  only,  and  in  the 
Western  Ghats  from  Khandesh  to  Malabar,  wandering  in  winter  as 
far  south  as  Travancore.  The  typical  form  is  found  in  the  Brahma- 
gherries  and  Nilgiris,  probably  extending  also  to  the  higher  ranges 


THE    NILGIRI    BLACKBIRD  m 

of  Western  Mysore.  T.  s.  bourdilloni  is  found  in  the  Palnis  and 
Travancore  ranges  while  T.  s.  kinnisii  is  confined  to  Ceylon.  The 
identity  of  the  form  reported  in  certain  areas  of  the  Central  Provinces 
is  still  in  doubt  but  a  distinct  race  T.  s.  spensei  is  found  along  the 
Eastern  Ghats.  These  Blackbirds  occur  up  to  the  highest  points  in 
the  various  hill  ranges  and  are  mainly  resident  birds. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Nilgiri  Blackbird,  to  treat  more  particularly  of 
the  best-known  form,  is  one  of  the  commonest  birds  at  Ootacamund 
and  its  vicinity,  being  found  chiefly  in  the  Sholas  on  the  tops  of  the 
ranges,  but  also  in  other  types  of  country.  It  enters  orchards  and 
gardens,  and  on  the  whole  is  a  tame  familiar  species  though  shy 
when  nesting.  It  feeds  chiefly  on  the  ground,  hopping  with  active 
movements  and  turning  over  dead  leaves  for  insects,  worms  and  fallen 
fruits,  but  when  disturbed  flies  up  into  the  trees,  flitting  from  tree  to 
tree  with  powerful  flight.  Small  berries  and  fruits  are  eaten  in  the  trees. 

The  breeding  season  is  somewhat  extended,  from  March  to 
August,  though  most  nests  will  be  found  in  April  and  May.  At  this 
period  the  males  sing  very  beautifully,  perching  high  up  in  the  trees  : 
they  may  be  heard  at  all  hours  but  especially  in  the  evenings. 

In  the  details  of  its  breeding  this  bird  recalls  the  familiar  English 
Blackbird.  The  nest  is  a  massive,  well-built  cup  made  of  moss,  roots, 
grass,  and  leaves  largely  plastered  together  with  mud,  while  the  egg- 
cavity  is  neatly  lined  with  grass  and  roots.  It  is  placed  in  a  fork 
of  a  tree  or  shrub  at  any  height  up  to  about  20  feet  from  the  ground. 

The  usual  clutch  consists  of  two  to  four  eggs  but  five  are  some- 
times found.  The  egg  is  a  broad  oval,  pointed  towards  the  smaller 
end  ;  the  texture  is  fine  with  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground-colour 
varies  from  bright  blue-green  to  dull  olive-green ;  the  markings 
consist  of  spots,  speckles,  mottlings,  and  streaks  of  brownish-red, 
with  secondary  spots  and  clouds  of  purplish-pink  or  grey. 

The  egg  measures  about  i- 17  by  o»86  inches. 


THE    GREY-WINGED    BLACKBIRD 

TURDUS  BOULBOUL  (Latham) 
(Plate  vii,  Fig.  i,  opposite  page  132) 

Description. — Length  1 1  inches.  Male  :  Entire  plumage  deep 
glossy  black,  paler  and  duller  beneath ;  a  wide  ashy-grey  patch 
across  the  upper  sides  of  the  wings. 

Female :  Entire  plumage  olivaceous  ashy-brown,  the  wing-patch 
being  pale  rufous. 

Iris  brown,  eye-rim  orange-yellow ;  bill  coral-red  to  deep  orange, 
dusky  at  the  tip  ;  legs  brownish-yellow. 

Field  Identification. — Himalayan  forest  bird  with  a  good  song  ; 


H2          POPULAR   HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

resembles  the  corresponding  sexes  of  the  English  Blackbird  with 
the  addition  of  a  broad  patch  on  the  wing,  silvery  in  the  male,  rufous 
in  t  her  female. 

Distribution. — The  Grey-winged  Blackbird  is  a  common  Hima- 
layan species  extending  from  Hazara  and  Kashmir  on  the  west 
to  the  extreme  east  and  south  of  Assam  and  Manipur.  It  breeds 
chiefly  in  an  intermediate  zone  between  7000  and  8000  feet  and 
in  smaller  numbers  up  to  10,000  and  down  to  4500  feet.  It  is 
in  the  main  a  resident  species,  but  during  the  winter  months  tends 
to  leave  the  higher  portions  of  its  range  and  drift  down  towards 
the  foot-hills,  stragglers  at  this  season  even  venturing  into  the 
neighbouring  plains  districts. 

The  White-collared  Blackbird  (Turdus  albocincta)  is  common  in 
the  Himalayan  forests,  breeding  from  7500  to  10,000  feet,  lower  in 
winter.  The  male  is  black  in  colour  with  a  broad  white  collar  round 
the  neck. 

Habits,  etc. — This  is  one  of  the  finest  and  best -known  songsters 
of  the  Himalayas,  being  frequently  caged  and  sold  under  the  name 
of  Kastura.  It  is  a  typical  Blackbird  in  its  habits,  and  is  more 
particularly  a  forest  bird,  feeding  on  the  ground  amongst  the  under- 
growth, and  turning  over  dead  leaves  and  digging  with  its  beak 
in  places  where  the  soil  is  soft.  From  the  ground  it  obtains  worms, 
grubs,  insects,  and  fallen  seeds  and  fruits,  and  it  is  also  accustomed 
to  eat  large  quantities  of  the  various  hill  fruits  and  berries  from  the 
trees.  At  any  time  of  day  in  the  breeding  season,  but  more  particularly 
in  the  mornings  and  evenings,  the  males  may  be  heard  singing,  usually 
from  the  top  of  a  tall  tree  commanding  a  wide  view  around.  The 
song  is  very  pleasant,  recalling  that  of  the  English  Blackbird,  but 
individuals  vary  a  good  deal  in  the  merits  of  their  performance.  It 
is  otherwise  a  quiet  and  rather  shy  bird,  especially  in  the  neighbour- 
hood of  the  nest  when  it  sits  motionless  on  the  bough  of  a  tree  watching 
the  intruder. 

The  normal  breeding  season  is  from  May  to  July. 

The  nest  is  a  rather  massive  cup  of  roots  and  grasses  usually 
stiffened  with  mud  and  liberally  coated  externally  with  green  moss 
and  similar  materials,  and  lined  with  fine  dry  grass.  The  majority 
of  nests  are  built  in  trees,  some  10  or  20  feet  from  the  ground, 
but  others  are  placed  on  ledges  of  rock  or  on  steep  banks  or 
amongst  the  roots  of  trees. 

The  eggs  vary  from  two  to  four  in  number.  They  are  of  the 
usual  Blackbird  type.  The  ground-colour,  where  visible,  is  a  pale 
dingy  green,  but  it  is  thickly  streaked,  mottled  and  clouded  with  dull 
brownish-red  sometimes  so  heavily  as  to  obscure  the  ground-colour. 

The  eggs  measure  about  1*20  by  0-85  inches. 


TICKELL'S  THRUSH  113 

TICKELL'S    THRUSH 

TURDUS  UNICOLOR  Tickell 

Description. — Length  9  inches.  Male :  The  upper  plumage 
including  the  wings  and  tail  ashy-grey ;  lower  plumage  slaty-grey, 
paler  on  the  chin,  and  becoming  white  towards  the  tail,  the  under 
wing-coverts  chestnut-brown. 

Female  :  Upper  plumage  olive-brown,  the  wings  and  tail  darker  ; 
chin  and  throat  white,  streaked  on  the  sides  with  black ;  breast 
olivaceous  with  a  gorget  of  black  spots  across  the  upper  part ;  flanks 
ochraceous  ;  abdomen  to  the  tail  white  ;  under  wing-coverts  chestnut- 
brown. 

Iris  brown  ;  eye-rim  greenish -yellow  ;  bill  and  legs  yellow. 

Field  Identification. — A  quiet,  dull-coloured  Thrush  which  feeds 
on  the  ground  and  flies  up  into  the  trees  when  disturbed.  Most 
familiar  as  the  bird  that  feeds  on  the  lawns  at  Srinagar,  where  it  is 
particularly  common. 

Distribution. — This  species  is  only  found  in  the  Indian  Empire. 
It  breeds  commonly  but  locally  in  the  Himalayas  from  Chitral  to 
Eastern  Nepal.  It  is  migratory,  and  in  winter  moves  down  into 
the  plains  of  India,  being  found  at  that  season  as  far  south  as 
Khandala,  Raipur,  and  Vizagapatam,  travelling  eastwards  also  to 
Sikkim,  Cachar,  and  Manipur. 

A  rather  larger  species,  the  Black-throated  Thrush  (Turdus 
atrogularis),  in  which  the  male  has  the  chin,  throat  and  breast  black,  is 
a  very  common  winter  visitor  to  the  Himalayas  and  Northern  India. 

Habits,  etc. — This  Thrush  is  known  to  everyone  who  has  visited 
Kashmir,  and  it  is  one  of  those  birds  which  contribute  to  the  very 
English  atmosphere  of  Srinagar. 

The  song  may  be  heard  from  April  to  July  and  it  sings  at  all 
hours  of  the  day  but  more  especially  in  the  mornings  and  evenings, 
and  on  cloudy  days  with  rain  impending.  This  Thrush,  in  combination 
with  the  Kashmir  Golden  Oriole,  is  responsible  for  the  dawn  chorus 
which  is  so  remarkable  in  April  and  May  in  and  around  Srinagar  in 
Kashmir.  The  song  recalls  that  of  the  English  Thrush  though  less 
full  and  varied,  and  is  something  as  follows  : — chellya-chellya-chirrali, 
chellya-chellya-chellya,  chellya-chellya-jalia ;  and  it  further  recalls 
that  familiar  bird  by  its  presence  round  houses  and  in  gardens,  and 
its  habit  of  hopping  about  the  lawns  of  the  English  quarter  in  search 
of  worms  and  snails,  uttering  often  a  juk-juk  which  at  other  times 
is  used  as  an  alarm-note.  Pairs  are  to  be  found  in  every  grove  round 
the  villages,  and  it  is  a  tame  and  familiar  bird,  haunting  their  neigh- 
bourhood in  preference  to  the  forests,  where  also,  however,  it  is  found 
in  smaller  numbers.  At  the  nest,  on  the  other  hand,  it  is  rathery  shy. 

H 


ii4  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

It  breeds  in  May  and  June.  The  nest  is  a  large  deep  cup,  some- 
times neat  and  compact,  at  other  times  loose  and  untidy ;  it  is 
composed  of  moss,  either  dry  or  green,  roots,  dry  grass  and  a  few 
leaves,  and  is  lined  with  fine  roots.  It  is  placed  usually  at  heights 
between  6  and  20  feet  from  the  ground,  in  the  heads  of  pollard 
willows  or  in  the  forks  of  trees  or  on  branches  close  to  the  trunk. 
A  few  nests  are  found  close  to  the  ground  in  banks. 

The  number  of  eggs  varies  from  three  to  five.  They  are  rather 
variable  in  shape,  round,  elongated,  or  pyriform  ovals.  The  texture 
is  fine  but  there  is  very  little  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  greenish- 
or  reddish-white,  and  the  whole  surface  is  more  or  less  thickly 
speckled  or  boldly  blotched  with  dull  reddish-brown,  in  some  eggs 
the  ground-colour  predominating,  in  others  the  reddish  tint  of  the 
markings  ;  in  all,  however,  the  markings  are  thickest  towards  the 
broad  end. 

The  eggs  average  about  1-06  by  0-78  inches. 


THE  ORANGE-HEADED   GROUND-THRUSH 

GEOKICHLA  CITRINA  (Latham) 
(Plate  iv,  Fig.  3,  opposite  page  66) 

Description. — Length  9  inches.  The  whole  head,  neck  and  lower 
parts  as  far  as  the  vent  orange-chestnut,  rather  darker  on  the  crown 
and  hind  neck  ;  the  rest  of  the  upper  parts  bluish-grey ;  wings  and 
tail  brown,  washed  with  bluish-grey,  a  conspicuous  white  spot  on 
the  shoulder  and  another  on  the  underside  of  the  quills  ;  vent  and 
under  the  tail  white. 

Female  :  Similar  to  the  male  but  the  orange-chestnut  is  paler  and 
the  ashy-grey  of  the  upper  parts,  wings  and  tail  is  replaced  by  brownis'h 
olive-green. 

Iris  dark  hazel ;  bill  very  dark  brown,  base  of  lower  mandible 
flesh-colour ;  legs  fleshy-pink. 

The  tail  is  comparatively  rather  short. 

Field  Identification. — A  typical  Thrush  in  bearing,  bright  chestnut 
in  colour  with  the  back,  wings  and  tail  bluish-grey  in  the  male  and 
olive  in  the  female.  In  the  Southern  race  the  sides  of  the  face  are 
curiously  banded  with  brown  and  white  and  the  throat  is  white. 
A  forest  species  usually  found  feeding  on  the  ground  in  damp  and 
shady  places. 

Distribution. — The  Orange-headed  Ground-Thrush  has  a  wide 
distribution  with  several  races  in  India,  Burma,  the  Andamans  and 
Nicobars,  the  Malay  States  and  Siam.  We  are  concerned  here  with 
two.  The  typical  race  breeds  throughout  the  foot-hills  and  lower 
ranges  of  the  Himalayas  from  Murree  to  Assam  and  Burma,  and 


THE    ORANGE-HEADED    GROUND-THRUSH  115 

still  farther  eastwards ;  also  in  Lower  Bengal.  In  the  Western 
Himalayas  and  Nepal  it  is  a  summer  visitor.  In  the  Eastern 
Himalayas  and  Assam  it  appears  to  be  largely  resident  in  the  foot- 
hills, moving  up  in  summer  into  some  of  the  inner  valleys.  The 
north-western  migrants  evidently  winter  anywhere  from  the  Dun  to 
Chota  Nagpore  and  Calcutta,  stragglers  wandering  as  far  afield  as 
Ratnagiri  and  Ceylon.  G.  c.  cyanotus  has  a  ring  round  the  eye,  the 
sides  of  the  face  and  the  chin  and  throat  white  ;  the  white  of  the 
sides  of  the  face  is  broken  by  two  short  oblique  dark  brown  bands 
which  run  down  from  the  lower  border  of  the  eye.  This  race  is 
found  as  a  resident  south  of  a  line  roughly  from  Western  Khandesh 
through  Pachmarhi  to  Sirguja,  occurring  up  to  an  elevation  of  4000  feet. 

Habits. — This  Ground-Thrush  is  essentially  a  forest-loving  species 
and  it  will  always  be  found  by  preference  in  damp  and  shady  thickets 
or  in  thick  bamboo-brakes.  In  such  places  it  feeds  solitary  on  the 
ground  under  thick  tangles  of  roots  and  stems  of  brushwood.  It 
rummages  amongst  the  leaves  and  fallen  debris,  tossing  and  turning 
them  over  in  a  constant  search  for  slugs,  insects,  snails,  caterpillars, 
berries,  and  such  like,  and  so  constant  is  this  habit  that  the  beak 
is  nearly  always  muddy,  a  fact  remarked  by  many  writers.  It  is  shy 
and  quiet  and  when  disturbed  promptly  flies  up  into  a  bough  where 
it  sits  silent  and  motionless  waiting  to  resume  its  quest  for  food. 
Living  thus  in  the  shade  it  is  crepuscular  in  habits  and  at  dusk  moves 
out  to  roads  and  open  spaces. 

In  the  breeding  season  the  male  has  a  pleasant  and  energetic, 
though  not  very  powerful,  song  which  is  uttered  from  a  perch  well  up 
in  a  tree.  This  is  only  heard  in  the  early  mornings  and  late  evenings 
and  the  bird  is  something  of  a  mimic,  introducing  the  calls  of  other 
species  into  its  song.  It  has  also  a  peculiar  note  or  loud  whistle, 
something  like  the  noise  of  a  screeching  slate-pencil,  which  is  used 
apparently  as  an  alarm-note. 

The  breeding  season  in  the  Himalayas  is  from  the  end  of  April 
until  nearly  the  end  of  June.  In  Peninsular  India  it  is  later,  from 
June  to  August  and  even  September. 

The  nest  is  a  rather  broad  solid  cup  of  moss,  grass,  stalks,  bents 
and  similar  materials.  Inside  it  is  lined  with  fine  roots  and  the 
black  hair-like  roots  of  moss  and  ferns.  A  good  deal  of  mud  and 
clay  is  usually  built  into  the  foundations.  The  nest  is  placed  in  a 
fork  of  a  moderately  sized  tree,  usually  at  no  great  height  from  the 
ground. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs,  and  five  have  been 
recorded.  The  egg  is  a  moderately  broad  oval,  a  good  deal  pointed 
towards  the  small  end.  The  shell  is  fine  and  fairly  glossy,  some 
eggs  having  a  really  fine  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  a  pale  bluish- 
or  greenish-white  and  it  is  thickly  freckled,  blotched  and  streaked 


n6          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

with  brownish-  or  purplish-red.  Some  eggs  have  the  markings  fine  and 
very  thickly  spread  over  the  whole  surface.  Others  have  them  thick, 
bold  and  blotchy  all  over  the  larger  half  with  only  a  few  small  spots 
scattered  over  the  rest  of  the  egg.  Intermediate  varieties  also  occur. 
The  egg  measures  about  i-oo  by  0-75  inches. 


THE  BLUE-HEADED  ROCK-THRUSH 

MONTICOLA   CINCLORHYNCHA   (Vigors) 
(Plate  ix,  Fig.  4,  opposite  page  176) 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Male  :  Whole  head  bright  cobalt- 
blue,  divided  by  a  broad  black  line  from  the  beak  through  the  eye 
to  the  back  and  shoulders,  which  are  also  black  ;  rump  and  the  lower 
plumage  chestnut ;  wings  black  washed  with  blue,  and  with  a  con- 
spicuous white  patch  on  the  inner  quills  ;  tail  black  washed  with 
blue. 

Female  :  Upper  plumage,  wings  and  tail  olive-brown  tinged  with 
ochraceous  ;  chin  and  throat  whitish  ;  lower  plumage  whitish,  tinged 
with  ochraceous  on  the  breast  and  largely  barred  with  dark  brown. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  black,  gape  yellow  ;  legs  dusky  brown. 

Field  Identification. — Familiar  song  bird  in  summer  along  the 
lower  Himalayas  in  light  open  forest,  perching  on  trees  and  railings  ; 
male  easily  recognised  by  the  blue  head  and  throat,  chestnut  rump 
and  lower  plumage  and  white  patch  in  the  wings  ;  female  brown 
with  a  scaled  appearance,  and  a  rather  conspicuous  dark  eye. 

It  must  not  be  confused  with  the  larger  Chestnut-bellied  Rock- 
Thrush  (Monticola  rufrventris\  also  found  throughout  the  Himalayas, 
whose  male  lacks  the  chestnut  rump  and  white  wing-patch. 

Distribution. — This  bird  breeds  in  the  hills  along  the  boundary 
of  the  North-western  Frontier  Province  and  throughout  the  Himalayas 
to  East  and  Southern  Assam  and  the  Chin  and  Kachin  Hills.  The 
majority  breed  between  3500  and  6000  feet,  but  a  few  range  up  to 
9000  feet. 

It  is  a  migratory  species,  passing  down  from  about  October  to 
April  into  the  plains  and  continental  ranges  of  India  and  portions 
of  Burma.  It  avoids  Sind  and  the  plains  of  the  Punjab  and  becomes 
most  common  in  winter  in  the  hill  ranges  of  the  Western  Ghats  from 
Khandala  to  South  Travancore. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Blue-headed  Rock-Thrush  is  in  the  breeding 
season  a  bird  of  the  more  open  hill  forests,  being  especially  typical 
of  the  areas  in  the  lower  Himalayas  which  are  clothed  with  the 
Cheel  pine  (Pinus  longifolid).  Here  the  song  of  the  male  is  a  very 
familiar  and  pleasant  feature ;  it  is  a  pretty  three-note  warbling 


THE  BLUE-HEADED  ROCK-THRUSH       117 

song  of  tew-ti-di,  tew-ti-di,  tew-ti-di,  tew  (the  tew  descending  in 
the  scale  and  getting  louder  at  each  repetition),  and  it  is  commonly 
sung  in  the  mornings  and  evenings.  The  bird  itself  is  by  nature 
secretive  and  not  often  seen  until  one  is  familiar  with  the  alarm-note 
ee-tut-tuty  a  low,  pleasant  sound  which  soon  gives  away  its  where- 
abouts on  a  tree  bough ;  then  the  bird  is  found  to  be  confiding  and 
to  allow  a  near  approach.  It  feeds  both  on  insects  and  on  berries, 
and  in  pursuit  of  the  former  sometimes  flies  out  from  a  tree  into 
mid-air,  hovering  with  wings  outstretched,  after  the  capture  gliding 
down  again  to  its  post  amongst  the  branches.  Similarly,  it  often 
floats  with  wings  outstretched,  singing  as  it  goes,  from  the  top  of  a 
tall  tree  down  to  a  lower  one.  In  winter  it  is  a  solitary  species. 

The  breeding  season  proper  is  from  April  to  June,  but  occasional 
nests  may  be  met  with  until  August.  The  nest  is  a  neat  shallow 
cup  of  moss,  grass,  fir-needles  and  dead  leaves,  and  is  lined  with 
fine  roots  or  a  little  hair.  The  favourite  situation  for  it  is  in  a  hollow 
in  a  bank  by  the  side  of  a  road  or  path,  but  it  is  also  placed  in  hollows 
amongst  the  roots  of  trees. 

The  clutch  consists  of  four  eggs.  The  egg  is  a  rather  long  oval, 
very  blunt  at  the  small  end,  of  slightly  coarse  texture  with  a  little 
gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  pinkish-white,  very  closely  and  minutely 
freckled  and  mottled  all  over,  but  most  densely  at  the  large  end,  with 
pale  dingy  salmon-colour. 

The  eggs  measure  about  0-92  by  0-72  inches. 


THE    BLUE    ROCK-THRUSH 
MONTICOLA  SOLITARIA  (Linnaeus) 

Description. — Length  9  inches.  Male  :  Whole  plumage  dull  dark 
blue,  rather  brighter  over  the  eye,  on  the  sides  of  the  head  and  on 
the  throat,  the  feathers  of  the  upper  parts  with  brown  fringes  and  the 
feathers  of  the  lower  plumage  more  or  less  barred  with  blackish  and 
fringed  with  white  ;  wings  and  tail  dark  brown  washed  with  dark 
blue,  most  of  the  wing-feathers  tipped  with  creamy  white. 

In  summer  the  wearing  off  of  the  fringes  on  the  body  makes  the 
plumage  a  brighter,  more  uniform  blue  with  the  wings  dark  in  contrast. 

Female  :  Whole  upper  plumage,  wings  and  tail  similar  to  the  male 
but  the  colour  is  much  duller,  almost  ashy-brown  in  tint ;  chin, 
throat  and  upper  breast  creamy-buff  the  feathers  margined  with 
sooty-black,  giving  a  scaled  appearance  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage 
creamy-buff  barred  with  sooty-black. 

Iris  hazel ;  bill  blackish-horn,  mouth  yellow ;  feet  black,  claws 
dark  horn. 

H2 


n8  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

Field  Identification. — A  dark  looking  bird,  the  male  bluish,  the 
female  speckled  with  buff  and  brown,  invariably  found  perching 
solitary  on  rocks,  brick-kilns  or  buildings  and  rather  shy  if  approached. 

Distribution. — A  widely  distributed  species  found  in  South  Europe, 
Africa  and  the  greater  part  of  Asia.  It  is  divided  into  many  races. 
Of  these  we  are  chiefly  concerned  with  the  Central  Asian  and  Hima- 
layan race  M.  s.  pandoo  which  breeds  in  our  area  from  Chitral  and 
Gilgit  along  the  Himalayas  to  Sikkim  at  all  elevations  from  4500  to 
15,000  feet.  From  September  and  early  October  until  April  it  spreads 
over  the  greater  part  of  India  and  Burma,  stragglers  also  reaching 
Ceylon.  It  also  winters  in  Siam,  Indo-China,  the  Malay  States 
and  Sumatra.  A  greyer  race  M.  s.  longirostris  breeds  along  the  North- 
west Frontier  of  India  from  the  Samana  to  North  Baluchistan  and 
winters  in  Africa.  Another  form  M.  s.  affinis  with  faint  traces  of 
chestnut  on  the  lower  plumage  of  the  male  is  a  winter  visitor  to  the 
Eastern  Himalayas  and  Assam. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Blue  Rock-Thrush  is  one  of  those  birds  that  is 
strongly  attached  to  a  particular  type  of  terrain.  In  the  breeding 
season  in  the  hills  it  is  very  much  a  bird  of  the  rocks,  frequenting 
boulder-clad  hill-sides,  open  rocky  ground  or  if  it  is  breeding  down  in 
the  tree  zone,  rocky  screes,  gorges  or  cliffs  in  open  ground  between  the 
forests.  With  this  insistence  on  the  letter  of  its  needs  it  is  able  to  occupy 
a  very  much  wider  altitudinal  range  for  breeding  than  most  species. 

In  winter,  too,  its  special  propensity  is  to  the  fore.  Rocks  it  must 
have  to  live  on  and  if  they  are  not  available  in  the  shape  of  hills  and 
boulders  it  finds  a  substitute  in  quarries,  ruined  forts  and  unoccupied 
buildings,  rocks  on  the  sea-shore  or  even  at  the  worst  it  takes  refuge 
on  brick-kilns  and  piles  of  stone.  In  all  these  places  the  habits  and 
demeanour  of  the  bird  are  the  same.  It  perches  up  on  a  point  of 
vantage — be  this  boulder  or  cornice — sitting  very  erect  and  solitary, 
reminding  the  observer  that  it  is  the  Sparrow  that  sitteth  alone  on 
the  house-top  as  Canon  Tristram  pointed  out  long  ago  in  his  studies 
of  the  Holy  Land.  Always  shy  and  wary,  if  approached  it  bows  and 
flirts  the  tail  nervously  before  flitting  to  another  vantage  point  some 
distance  away.  In  winter  it  frequently  roosts  under  the  roof  of  a  house. 

The  male  has  a  fine  song,  a  soft  melodious  but  rather  short  whistle 
reminiscent  of  that  of  an  English  Blackbird,  which  is  uttered  both 
from  a  perch  and  on  the  wing  and  this  may  be  heard  occasionally 
also  in  the  winter.  When  courting  the  male  indulges  in  slow  vol- 
planing flights  which  show  off  his  blue  plumage  to  advantage  in  the 
sunlight. 

As  to  food  the  bird  is  fairly  omnivorous.  Insects  are  taken  from 
the  ground  and  on  the  wing ;  larvae,  worms,  snails,  lizards,  berries 
and  seeds  all  are  grist  for  its  mill. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  April  to  July. 


THE    BLUE    ROCK-THRUSH  119 

The  nest  is  placed  in  a  hole  or  cleft  of  the  rocks  on  steep  precipitous 
ground  and  is  usually  partly  screened  from  view,  difficult  to  reach 
and  often  inaccessible.  It  is  a  shallow  cup  of  roots  and  dry  grass, 
lined  with  fine  roots. 

The  clutch  consists  of  four  or  five  eggs.  The  egg  is  a  regular  oval 
very  smooth  in  texture  with  a  fine  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  an 
excessively  pale,  slightly  greenish-blue,  sometimes  unmarked,  at  other 
times  speckled  mostly  at  the  large  end  with  very  minute  brownish-red 
spots. 

It  measures  about  i- 10  by  0-75  inches. 


THE    WHISTLING-THRUSH 

MYOPHONUS  C^ERULEUS  (Scopoli) 

(Plate  vii,  Fig.  2,  opposite  page  132) 

Description. — Length  iz  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Entire  plumage 
deep  blue-black,  becoming  brighter  and  bluer  on  the  wings  and  tail, 
and  duller  and  browner  on  the  abdomen  ;  a  velvety  black  patch  in 
front  of  the  eye  ;  all  the  body-feathers  more  or  less  tipped  with  deep 
shining  blue  ;  some  of  the  wing-coverts  tipped  with  white. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  yellow,  blackish  along  top  ;  legs  black. 

Field  Identification. — A  large,  strong  "  Blackbird,"  bright  prussian- 
blue  in  favourable  lights,  found  near  water  in  the  Himalayas  ;  noisy 
with  harsh  whistling  calls  ;  bold  and  conspicuous  ;  black  legs  and 
black  eye-rim  at  once  distinguish  it  from  the  true  Blackbirds,  which 
have  those  parts  yellow. 

Distribution. — This  Whistling-Thrush,  found  in  Turkestan,  China 
and  southwards,  is  represented  in  our  area  by  the  race  M.  c.  temminckii, 
which  extends  throughout  the  Himalayas  from  the  hills  of  Baluchistan 
and  the  Afghan  Frontier  to  the  extreme  east  of  Assam  and  to  the 
neighbouring  hill  tracts,  being  replaced  by  another  (M.  c.  eugenei) 
from  Eastern  Burma  to  Cochin-China.  It  breeds  from  the  foot-hills 
at  about  2000  feet  up  to  "12,000  feet,  though  the  majority  of  nests 
will  be  found  between  5000  and  9000  feet.  Although  strictly 
speaking  a  resident  species,  its  fine  powers  of  flight  tend  to  make 
it  wander  a  good  deal,  and  in  the  winter  months  numbers  move 
down  into  the  foot-hills  while  stragglers  even  appear  in  the  plains 
far  out  of  sight  of  the  hills.  There  are  records  from  as  far  south  as 
Jhang  and  Rhotak. 

An  allied  species,  the  Malabar  Whistling-Thrush  (Myophonus 
horsfieldii)y  which  has  a  bright  blue  forehead  and  a  brilliant  patch  of 
cobalt-blue  on  the  wing,  is  common  in  the  vicinity  of  Pachmarhi  in 
Central  India  and  in  South-western  India,  especially  in  the  Nilgiris, 
and  it  is  known  as  the  "  Whistling- Schoolboy." 


120          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

Habits,  etc. — This  very  common  and  typical  Himalayan  bird  may 
be  considered  in  some  senses  as  a  water-bird,  a  bird  of  rivers  and 
mountain  streams.  True  it  is  that  it  may  be  found  anywhere  in  the 
mountains,  dashing  across  the  face  of  some  precipitous  crag,  flitting 
through  the  trees  of  the  gloomiest  pine  forest  or  feeding  on  an  open 
hill-side,  but  a  little  observation  will  invariably  show  that  its  head- 
quarters are  in  some  gorge  watered  by  purling  stream  or  rushing 
torrent.  And  further  proof  may  be  found  in  its  song  and  calls ;  the 
call  is  a  loud,  melodious  whistle,  and  the  song  is  loud  and[  well 
sustained,  of  the  type  of  most  of  the  Thrush  family ;  but  in  both 
call  and  song  there  is  something  of  harshness  and  unpleasantness, 
a  squeaky,  eerie  timbre,  which  prevents  either  from  being  beautiful, 
but  which  are  clearly  intended  to  carry  them  above  the  roar  of 
rushing  waters ;  in  this  they  succeed,  and  the  voice  of  this  bird 
heard  in  some  deep  nullah  where  the  water's  roar  stills  all  lesser 
sounds  is  appropriate  in  the  extreme,  and  matching  its  surroundings 
attains  to  beauty. 

There  is  something  very  tight-trussed  and  neat  about  the  Whistling- 
Thrush  as  it  hops  and  flies  from  boulder  to  ledge,  from  wall  to  branch  ; 
its  hard,  shiny  feathers  are  pressed  close  to  the  body,  and  as  the  long 
tail  sways  slowly  upwards  above  the  long  legs  the  bird  seems  the 
living  embodiment  of  all  the  qualities  of  vitality  and  fitness  that 
one  associates  with  nature  and  the  hills. 

The  bird  lays  commonly  from  the  end  of  April  to  June,  but  nests 
may  be  found  until  August,  as  apparently  two  broods  are  often  reared. 

The  nest  is  a  very  massive  and  heavy  cup  of  moss  dragged  up  by 
the  roots  with  mud  still  adhering  to  them ;  there  is  a  thick  lining 
of  fine  grass  roots  and  moss. 

It  is  placed  in  the  near  vicinity  of  water,  and  is  generally  well 
protected,  either  by  concealment  or  by  difficulty  of  access ;  for  the 
bird  is  very  cunning  in  its  arrangements.  Sometimes  it  builds  in 
a  mossy  bank  or  in  some  rocky  crevice  where  the  structure  of  the 
nest  and  overhanging  foliage  protect  the  site  from  wandering  eyes  ; 
at  other  times  the  nest  stands  out  patent  to  view,  conspicuous  in  the 
extreme,  on  the  face  of  some  precipitous  cliff,  or  in  a  hollow  on  a 
giant  boulder  encircled  by  rushing  water  or  otherwise  inaccessible. 
An  occasional  nest  may  be  found  in  a  tree. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  to  five  eggs. 

The  eggs  are  typically  very  long  and  pointed,  fragile,  and  rather 
rough  in  texture.  The  ground-colour  is  french-grey,  greyish-white 
or  pale  greenish,  speckled  and  freckled  with  minute  pink,  pale 
purplish-pink  or  pinkish-brown  markings.  These  markings  are 
generally  rather  thin,  and  there  is  a  curious  faded  appearance  about 
these  eggs  which  is  most  unusual. 

They  measure  about  1-40  by  i-oo  inches. 


THE    RED-BREASTED    FLYCATCHER  121 

THE  RED-BREASTED   FLYCATCHER 

SIPHIA  PARVA  (Bechstein) 
(Plate  ii,  Fig.  3,  opposite  page  22) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Adult  male :  Upper  plumage 
brown,  ashy  on  the  head  ;  sides  of  the  head  bluish-ashy  with  a 
white  ring  round  the  eye  ;  wings  dark  brown  ;  tail  blackish-brown, 
the  basal  two-thirds  of  the  feathers  white,  except  of  the  central  pair ; 
chin,  throat  and  breast  reddish-buff ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage 
white  washed  with  buff  on  the  sides. 

Female  and  immature  male :  The  whole  upper  plumage  brown, 
the  wings  and  tail  darker  brown,  the  basal  portions  of  all  the  tail- 
feathers  except  the  central  pair  white  as  in  the  adult  male  ;  a  whitish 
ring  round  the  eye  ;  whole  lower  plumage  dull  white,  washed  with 
buff  on  the  sides. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  brown  ;  legs  blackish-brown. 

Field  Identification. — A  small  brown  bird  with  whitish  under  parts, 
and  in  some  individuals  with  the  throat  and  breast  red,  which  fly- 
catches  in  trees  ;  easily  recognised  by  the  habit  of  jerking  the  tail 
upwards  at  intervals,  thus  exhibiting  the  white  patches  in  its  base  ; 
quiet  in  demeanour. 

Distribution. — The  Red-breasted  Flycatcher  is  widely  spread  as 
a  breeding  species  throughout  Europe,  Siberia,  and  Northern  and 
Central  Asia  generally,  and  is  divided  into  two  races  which  migrate 
southwards  in  winter.  Both  races  are  winter  visitors  to  India  and 
differ  merely  in  slight  details  of  coloration.  The  typical  race  breeds 
in  Europe  and  Western  Siberia,  and  is  a  most  abundant  winter 
visitor  to  India  from  October  until  May.  It  arrives  in  India,  via 
the  north-west  corner,  and  extends  down  to  Malabar  and  the  Nilgiris 
in  the  south,  and  east  as  far  as  Behar  and  Assansole  in  Bengal.  The 
breeding  bird  of  North-eastern  Asia  (S.  p.  albicilla)  winters  mostly 
in  North-eastern  India,  Burma,  and  China,  but  has  occurred  also  as 
far  as  Belgaum,  the  Nallamallais,  and  Travancore. 

The  Kashmir  Red-breasted  Flycatcher  (Siphia  hyperythra)  of  very 
similar  coloration,  but  with  a  more  chestnut-red  breast  bordered  with 
black,  breeds  commonly  in  Kashmir  between  6000  and  8000  feet 
and  winters  in  Ceylon. 

Another  Flycatcher  with  white  in  the  tail  is  the  Orange-gorgeted 
Flycatcher  (Siphia  strophiatd).  It  has  the  throat  and  breast  sooty 
with  a  central  orange  patch.  Common  in  the  Sikkim  area  from  9000 
to  1000  feet. 

Habits,  etc. — The  main  requisite  of  the  Red-breasted  Flycatcher 
is  trees,  and  provided  that  there  is  a  sufficiency  of  such  cover  it  is  a 
matter  of  indifference  to  it  whether  it  is  in  forest,  in  open  cultivation, 


122          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

or  in  the  neighbourhood  of  towns  and  villages.  Although  often 
descending  to  the  ground  to  capture  an  insect  it  is  an  arboreal 
species  and  a  true  flycatcher  in  its  habits,  frequenting  chiefly  the 
shady  places  within  the  boughs  of  large  trees  in  which  it  sedately 
hawks  and  flits  from  bough  to  bough.  It  is  rather  shy  and  secretive, 
and  is  jerky  and  restless  in  its  movements,  constantly  flirting  the  tail 
over  its  back  so  that  the  white  patch  in  the  base  of  the  feathers 
catches  the  eye  sooner  even  than  the  red  breast  of  the  adult  male. 
There  is  a  very  distinctive,  harsh,  jarring  note  which  is  commonly 
uttered,  while  a  plaintive  piping  call,  phwee-phwee-phwee,  repeated  at 
short  intervals,  is  used  to  express  anger  or  alarm.  It  has  a  sweet 
and  rather  varied  song  in  the  breeding  season,  but  this  is  not  heard 
in  India.  For  its  size  this  is  a  very  pugnacious  little  bird,  and  fights 
freely  with  others  of  its  own  species. 

The  Red-breasted  Flycatcher  does  not  breed  in  our  limits,  but 
the  breeding  season  in  Kashmir  of  the  allied  species,  S.  hyperythra, 
is  in  May  and  June.  The  latter  nests  in  holes  in  trees  at  any  height 
from  6  to  40  feet  from  the  ground.  The  nest  is  a  neat  little  cup  of 
moss  and  dead  leaves  mixed  with  grass,  chips  and  hair  and  lined 
with  hair  and  feathers.  The  clutch  consists  of  four  or  five  eggs. 
These  are  rather  broad  ovals,  pale  sea-green  or  pale  pinkish-stone 
in  colour,  freckled  closely  with  rusty-brown. 

They  measure  about  0*65  by  0-50  inches. 


TICKELL'S    BLUE    FLYCATCHER 

MUSCICAPULA  TICKELLI;E  (Blyth) 
(Plate  vi,  Fig.  4,  opposite  page  no) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Male  :  The  whole  upper  plumage 
dark  blue,  still  darker  on  the  sides  of  the  face,  and  brighter  in  a 
line  from  the  nostril  over  each  eye ;  wings  and  tail  black,  washed 
with  blue ;  throat,  breast  and  upper  abdomen  bright  ferruginous  ; 
remainder  of  lower  plumage  pure  white. 

Female  :  A  duller  replica  of  the  male. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  greyish-brown. 

The  bill  is  wide  and  flattened  at  the  base  and  fringed  with  long 
hairs. 

Field  Identification. — Peninsular  India.  A  dark  blue  bird  with 
the  throat  and  breast  reddish  and  the  rest  of  the  lower  parts  white. 
No  white  line  over  the  eye.  Flits  about  the  inner  side  of  trees  and 
bushes  in  shady  woods  and  groves  and  continually  sings  a  merry 
little  song. 

Distribution. — Widely  distributed  through  India,  Ceylon,  Burma, 


TICKELL'S    BLUE   FLYCATCHER  123 

Malay  Peninsula,  Siam,  and  Annam.  The  typical  race  is  found 
practically  throughout  India  at  all  elevations  except  north-west  of 
a  line  through  Mussoorie,  Sambhar,  Mount  Aboo,  and  Kathiawar. 
It  extends  eastwards  into  Assam  and  Burma.  In  Ceylon  it  is  replaced 
by  M.  t.  nesea  which  is  decidedly  darker  above.  A  resident  species 
except  for  short  local  migrations. 

This  species  may  very  easily  be  confused  with  the  Blue-throated 
Flycatcher  (Muscicapula  rubeculoides)  which  breeds  throughout  the 
Himalayas  and  wanders  into  many  parts  of  the  Peninsula  and  to  Ceylon 
in  winter.  The  male  has  the  chin  and  throat  dark  blue,  whereas  in 
Tickell's  Blue  Flycatcher  the  ferruginous  of  the  breast  comes  up  to  those 
parts,  leaving  only  a  tiny  patch  on  the  chin  at  the  base  of  the  beak 
blue.  Another  and  very  common  Himalayan  species  breeding  from 
7000  to  9000  feet,  which  also  winters  down  in  India  as  far  south  as 
the  Deccan,  is  the  White-eyebrowed  Blue  Flycatcher  (Muscicapula 
super ciliaris).  The  male  has  the  whole  of  the  upper  parts  and  an 
interrupted  collar  across  the  breast  blue,  and  in  the  West  Himalayan 
race  there  is  a  conspicuous  white  line  above  the  eye  and  a  white  patch 
in  the  side  of  the  tail.  Lower  parts  white. 

At  a  higher  level — 9000  to  10,000  feet — is  yet  another  common 
Himalayan  species,  best  known  in  Kashmir,  the  Slaty-blue  Flycatcher 
(Muscicapula  tricolor).  The  upper  parts  are  slaty-blue,  lower  parts 
whitish  and  there  is  a  white  patch  in  each  side  of  the  tail. 

Habits,  etc. — Tickell's  Blue  Flycatcher  is  another  forest-loving 
species  which  is  found  in  thick  cover  and  shade,  and  particularly 
haunts  the  banks  of  wooded  streams.  In  such  localities  it  flits 
about  amongst  the  boughs  and  hunts  for  insects,  particularly  in  the 
network  of  aerial  roots  and  creepers  which  are  a  feature  of  some  of 
the  southern  jungles.  It  is  a  wary  bird  and  not  always  easily  observed. 
When  one  is  walking  quietly  througn  the  jungle  this  Flycatcher  will 
usually,  when  first  met,  come  up  close  within  a  few  yards  and  give 
vent  to  its  short  song  as  if  challenging  the  intruder.  Then  it  disappears 
and  is  not  easily  approached  again. 

The  short  metallic  song  is  quite  pleasing.  It  consists  of  a  couple 
of  sharp  "  clicks,"  followed  by  a  little  tune  of  five  or  six  notes,  which 
recall  the  song  of  the  White-browed  Fantail-Flycatcher,  but  are 
harsher  and  not  so  loud.  The  song  is  incessantly  repeated. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  March  to  August,  but  the  majority 
of  nests  are  to  be  found  in  June  and  July. 

The  nest  is  a  small  cup  of  moss  or  dry  leaves  lined  with  fine 
roots  and  a  little  hair  placed  in  a  small  hole  or  hollow  in  a  variety 
of  situations — in  banks  or  rocks,  in  brickwork,  on  the  window-ledges 
of  ruined  houses.  A  very  favourite  situation  is  one  of  the  numerous 
hollows  formed  by  the  roots  of  a  wild  fig-tree,  banyan,  or  peepul, 
where  they  have  anastomosed  with  the  trunk  of  some  enclosed  tree. 


124          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

The  usual  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs.  The  egg  is  a 
moderately  elongated  oval,  somewhat  blunt  at  the  small  end.  The 
texture  is  fine  with  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  dingy 
greyish-white,  freckled  with  dingy  olive-brown.  The  freckling  is  so 
excessively  fine  that  the  egg  appears  a  dull  olive-brown,  rarely  tinged 
with  rufous  or  reddish,  more  especially  towards  the  broad  end. 

In  size  the  egg  measures  about  0-75  by  0*56  inches. 


THE    VERDITER    FLYCATCHER 

EUMYIAS  THALASSINA  (Swainson) 
(Plate  vi,  Fig.  i,  opposite  page  no) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Male  :  A  black  patch  in  front  of 
the  eye  ;  the  whole  plumage  bright  verditer-blue,  concealed  portions 
of  the  wings  and  tail  blackish-brown  ;  under  tail-coverts  broadly 
fringed  with  white. 

Female  :  Resembles  the  male,  but  is  duller  in  colour  throughout, 
and  the  chin  and  sides  of  the  throat  are  mottled  with  white. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

The  bill,  which  is  flat,  and  viewed  from  above  almost  forms  an 
equilateral  triangle,  is  fringed  with  hairs. 

Field  Identification. — Familiar  summer  bird  about  houses  and 
gardens  in  the  Himalayas  ;  a  conspicuous  verditer-blue  in  colour, 
perching  on  exposed  situations  and  hawking  insects  in  the  air  with 
active  flight. 

Distribution. — The  Verditer  Flycatcher  breeds  throughout  the 
Himalayas,  in  Assam,  the  Burmese  Hills,  Yunnan,  Shan  States, 
Siam,  Annam,  and  Western  China.  It  is  divided  into  races,  of  which 
only  the  typical  one  concerns  us.  This  breeds  in  the  Himalayas  from 
4000  to  10,000  feet,  and  during  the  winter  migrates  down  into 
Peninsular  India,  missing  out  most  of  the  Punjab,  Sind,  and  desert 
Rajputana,  and  extending  as  far  as  Travancore. 

The  small  and  very  dark  looking  Sooty  Flycatcher  (Hemichelidon 
sibiricd)  is  common  throughout  the  length  of  the  Himalayas.  It 
perches  higher  than  most  species,  often  at  the  tops  of  the  largest  trees. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Verditer  Flycatcher  in  summer  is  one  of  the 
few  birds  of  the  Himalayan  hill  stations  which  attract  the  notice  of 
even  the  least  observant.  It  is  a  bold  and  confiding  bird,  frequenting 
jungle  and  garden  alike,  and  perching  in  open  exposed  positions, 
where  its  brilliant  colouring  catches  the  sunlight  and  renders  it 
conspicuous.  Like  other  Flycatchers,  it  swoops  into  the  air  from 
its  perch  to  take  insects  on  the  wing ;  but  while  other  species  often 
return  to  the  same  perch  with  the  captured  insect,  the  Verditer 


THE    VERDITER    FLYCATCHER  125 

Flycatcher  continues  its  flight  and  perches  in  a  new  place,  thus 
continually  changing  its  ground  and  bringing  itself  more  to  notice. 
The  flight  is  very  strong  and  swift.  During  the  breeding  season  it 
affects  forest  areas  rather  than  the  more  open  hill-sides ;  during  the 
winter  it  appears  in  any  type  of  country  where  there  are  large  trees. 
Its  usual  perch  is  a  bare  twig  at  the  top  of  a  tree,  but  it  is  also 
partial  to  telegraph  wires  ;  it  does  not  as  a  rule  perch  on  buildings, 
though  it  enters  verandahs  and  porches  in  search  of  a  nesting  site. 
Normally  it  is  found  solitary  or  in  pairs,  but  small  parties  collect  on 
migration. 

There  appears  to  be  no  call-note,  but  the  male  has  a  loud  and 
fairly  good  song. 

It  breeds  from  April  till  the  middle  of  July,  and  probably  two 
broods  are  reared. 

The  nests  are  remarkably  true  to  type,  fairly  solid  cups  of  green 
moss,  lined  with  fine  black  moss  roots.  The  majority  are  built 
under  the  overhanging  crests  of  banks  where  the  action  of  water 
and  the  binding  qualities  of  tree-roots  combine  to  form  a  gloomy 
hollow,  in  the  side  of  which  the  nest  placed  in  a  hole  is  distinguished 
with  difficulty.  Banks  by  the  side  of  roads  and  paths  are  especially 
affected.  Other  sites  are  under  the  small  hill  bridges,  amongst  the 
timber-work,  or  in  the  rafters  and  eaves  of  buildings.  As  the  bird 
is  very  shy  at  the  nest  and  always  dashes  out  of  it  at  the  approach 
of  passers-by  and  in  front  of  them,  it  continually  brings  itself  and 
its  nest  to  notice. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  four  eggs,  though  three  or  five 
may  occasionally  be  found.  The  eggs  closely  resemble  those  of 
the  English  Robin.  In  shape  they  are  a  moderately  broad  oval, 
somewhat  compressed  towards  the  smaller  end.  The  shell  is 
fragile  and  with  little  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  pinky-white,  in 
some  entirely  devoid  of  markings,  in  others  with  a  more  or  less  con- 
spicuous reddish-pink  zone  or  cap  of  mottled  or  clouded  markings, 
not  defined  specks  or  spots,  which  are  generally  nearly  confluent. 

In  size  the  egg  averages  about  0-78  by  0-57  inches. 

THE    NILGIRI    BLUE    FLYCATCHER 
EUMYIAS  ALBICAUDATA  (Jerdon) 
(Plate  iv,  Fig.  2,  opposite  page  66) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Male  :  The  whole  plumage  dull 
indigo-blue,  becoming  ultramarine-blue  on  the  forehead  and  above 
the  eye  and  duller  and  whiter  towards  the  vent ;  a  black  spot  in 
front  of  the  eye ;  wings  and  tail  dark  brown,  all  feathers  edged  with 
blue,  and  the  tail-feathers,  excepting  the  central  pair,  pure  white  at 
the  base. 


126          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

Female :  The  whole  upper  plumage  dull  greyish-olivaceous  with 
a  dull  blue  patch  above  the  base  of  the  tail ;  wings  dark  brown,  all 
feathers  edged  with  rufescent ;  tail  blackish  edged  with  blue,  all 
feathers,  except  the  central  pair,  pure  white  at  the  base ;  lower 
plumage  dull  bluish-grey,  tinged  with  olivaceous  on  the  throat  and 
with  white  about  the  vent. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  horny-black  ;  legs  blackish-brown. 

The  bill  is  rather  wide  at  the  base  and  slightly  flattened  and  fringed 
with  hairs. 

Field  Identification. — A  rather  sombre-coloured  Flycatcher  with 
white  patches  in  the  base  of  the  tail,  found  commonly  in  forest  in  the 
hills  of  extreme  South-west  India.  The  male  has  a  good  song  and  is 
dull  dark  blue  in  colour,  rather  brighter  on  the  crown. 

Distribution. — A  resident  species,  confined  to  the  hills  of  extreme 
South-west  India  where  it  is  common  in  the  Nilgiris,  Biligirirangams, 
Nelliampathies,  Palnis  and  Travancore  ranges.  It  is  most  common  at 
an  elevation  of  4000  to  7000  feet  but  may  be  found  somewhat  lower. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Nilgiri  Blue  Flycatcher  is  essentially  a  forest- 
haunting  species  and  is  abundant  enough  in  those  hills  where  it  is 
found.  It  frequents  overgrown  hill  streams  and  nullahs,  the  under- 
growth which  flanks  paths  and  tracks  through  the  sholas  and  cardamum 
plantations  and  the  edges  of  forest  clearings.  It  also  often  visits  gardens. 

This  species  ordinarily  perches  in  a  somewhat  upright  position  on 
a  twig  and  utters  the  typical  Flycatcher  click  click  as  it  twitches  its 
tail  up  and  down.  The  song  is  very  sweet,  somewhat  feebler  than 
but  very  similar  in  character  to  that  of  the  Pied  Bush-Chat.  Heard 
in  a  shola  it  has  a  somewhat  penetrating  quality.  It  lasts  from  five 
to  ten  seconds  and  is  constantly  uttered  from  some  exposed  twig  on 
the  top  of  a  tree  and  it  may  be  heard  in  most  months  of  the  year. 
The  female  also  sings  on  occasion.  The  food  consists  almost  entirely 
of  insects  but  a  certain  amount  of  small  fruit  is  also  apparently  eaten. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  March  till  June  but  most  eggs 
will  be  found  about  April.  The  nest  is  usually  built  in  a  cavity  in  a 
bank,  more  particularly  on  the  inner  sides  of  the  paths  which  intersect 
the  hill-jungles  and  sholas ;  but  it  may  also  be  found  in  holes  in  rocks 
and  walls  and  trees,  under  the  eaves  of  houses  and  in  the  wood-work 
of  bridges.  The  nest  itself  is  a  soft  mass  of  fine  moss  on  a  slight 
foundation  of  coarse  moss  and  lichen  or  a  few  twigs.  The  egg-cavity 
can  hardly  be  said  to  be  lined,  but  a  greater  proportion  of  very  fine 
black  moss-roots  enter  into  the  composition  of  the  nest  here  than 
elsewhere.  One  or  two  feathers  are  occasionally  added. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  or  three  eggs.  These  vary  a  good  deal 
in  shape,  size  and  colour,  but  are  normally  an  elongated  oval  in  shape 
with  little  or  no  gloss.  The  ground-colour  varies  from  creamy-white 
to  a  pretty,  warm  cafe-au-lait  colour.  In  some  eggs  there  are  no 


THE    NILGIRI    BLUE    FLYCATCHER  127 

discernible  markings  ;  only  the  tint  grows  deeper  and  brighter  towards 
the  large  end,  becoming  pale  reddish-brown,  brownish-red  or  red  as 
the  case  may  be.  In  other  eggs  there  is  a  regular  zone  of  minute 
spots,  or  very  rarely  blotches,  round  the  broad  end.  Taken,  however, 
as  a  series  the  eggs  of  this  species  average  a  rather  deeper,  warmer 
salmon-pink  colour  than  those  of  the  Verditer  Flycatcher. 
In  size  they  measure  about  0-8  by  0-6  inches. 


THE  BLACK  AND  ORANGE  FLYCATCHER 

OCHROMELA  NIGRORUFA  (Jerdon) 
(Frontispiece,  Fig.  i) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Male  :  Top  and  sides  of  the  head 
and  hind-neck  black ;  wings  black ;  remainder  of  plumage  rich 
orange-chestnut,  somewhat  paler  on  the  throat  and  abdomen. 

Female  :  Similar  to  the  male  but  the  black  of  the  head  and  neck 
is  replaced  by  greenish-brown,  mottled  with  rufous  in  front  of  the  eye. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  blackish-brown  ;   legs  greyish-brown. 

The  coarse  broad  bill  is  fringed  with  long  hairs. 

Field  Identification. — Hills  of  South-west  India.  A  small  orange- 
coloured  bird  with  blackish  head-cap  and  wings  but  tail  also  orange. 
Found  flitting  about  near  the  ground  in  the  undergrowth  of  shady 
woods  where  its  presence  is  revealed  by  an  incessant  chirruping  note, 
easily  mistaken  for  that  of  an  insect. 

Distribution. — Confined  to  the  hill  ranges  of  South-west  India 
and  resident  at  elevations  from  2500  to  7000  feet  and  probably  most 
common  about  5000  feet.  It  is  recorded  from  the  Wynaad  (scarce), 
the  Nilgiris  and  Biligirirangams,  the  Palnis  and  the  Travancore  ranges, 
but  is  curiously  local  and  patchy  in  its  distribution. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Black  and  Orange  Flycatcher  must  very  soon 
become  well  known  to  all  observers  at  Ootacamund  and  Kodaikanal. 
It  is  a  bird  of  dense  woods  and  thickets,  preferring  the  most  retired, 
shady  and  damp,  swampy  patches  in  the  breeding  season  though  at 
other  times  it  ventures  into  the  lighter  woods  and  sholas.  In  such 
places  it  flits  about  the  undergrowth  singly  or  in  pairs,  reminding  the 
English  observer  of  a  Robin  in  its  ways.  At  one  moment  it  is  seated 
motionless  on  the  low  branch  of  a  tree  or  a  fallen  stump  or  some  thick 
tangle  of  dead  branches.  The  next  it  makes  a  short  swoop  at  an  insect 
in  the  air  or  descends  to  the  ground  for  a  second  to  pick  one  up  ;  but 
whatever  it  does  or  wherever  it  goes  you  will  notice  that  it  seldom 
leaves  the  neighbourhood  of  the  ground,  usually  keeping  within  a 
foot  or  two  of  it.  In  spite  of  its  preference  for  dark  woods  and  secluded 
spots  this  Flycatcher  is  by  no  means  a  shy  bird  and  it  does  not  resent 
observation  from  close  quarters  provided  that  one  keeps  motionless. 


128          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

There  is  no  true  song,  but  the  male  is  far  from  silent,  uttering  a 
somewhat  metallic  high-pitched  chirrup  chiki-riki-chiki  or  chee-r-ri-ri 
every  few  seconds  which  gives  away  its  whereabouts,  though  the 
chirrup  might  easily  be  mistaken  for  that  of  an  insect. 

The  breeding  season  proper  is  from  March  to  May  and  a  few  eggs 
may  still  be  found  in  June.  The  nest  is  a  very  remarkable  structure  for 
a  Flycatcher,  a  large  and  regular  ball  of  dry  sedge  and  coarse  grass, 
with  a  small  entrance  hole  at  one  side  near  the  top.  It  is  entirely 
devoid  of  lining  but  is  placed  on  a  foundation  of  dead  leaves.  These 
are  usually  wedged  into  the  centre  of  a  small  bush  or  clump  of  foliage, 
but  the  bird  is  also  fond  of  building  in  the  cluster  of  new  shoots  that 
rise  from  the  stump  of  a  tree  that  has  been  felled.  The  nest  is  normally 
built  at  a  height  of  two  to  three  feet  from  the  ground  and  occasionally 
lower. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  long  oval  in  shape  and  the  shell  is  very  fine  and 
delicate  with  little  or  no  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  pale  greyish- 
white  or  buffy-white,  faintly  but  profusely  freckled  all  over  with  pale 
pinky-grey  or  reddish  and  these  markings  sometimes  form  indistinct 
caps  or  zones  on  the  large  end  of  the  egg. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-70  by  0*52  inches. 


THE    GREY-HEADED    FLYCATCHER 

CULICICAPA  CEYLONENSIS  (Swainson) 
(Plate  vi,  Fig.  2,  opposite  page  no) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Head,  neck  and 
breast  ashy,  darker  on  the  crown  ;  remainder  of  plumage  greenish- 
yellow,  duller  and  greener  above  and  brighter  and  yellower  below ; 
concealed  portions  of  wings  and  tail  dark  brown. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  brown  ;  legs  yellowish-brown. 

The  bill,  viewed  from  above,  is  triangular  in  shape  and  thickly 
fringed  with  long  hairs. 

Field  Identification. — A  forest  bird  ;  very  small,  greenish-yellow, 
with  an  ashy  head  and  neck  ;  very  active  and  erratic  in  its  movements 
amongst  shady  trees  and  rather  noisy. 

Distribution. — Generally  distributed  throughout  India,  Ceylon, 
and  Burma,  extending  also  eastwards  to  Siam,  Cochin-China,  Java, 
and  Borneo,  this  common  Flycatcher  is  divided  into  several  races. 
We  are  concerned  only  with  two  of  these,  which  breed  in  the 
Himalayas  and  other  hill  ranges  from  3000  to  8000  feet  and  are 
locally  migratory,  moving  down  into  the  plains  after  the  breeding 
season.  C.  c.  pallidior  breeds  along  the  Himalayas  from  Hazara  to 


THE   GREY-HEADED   FLYCATCHER  129 

Bhutan,  and  is  found  in  winter  in  the  North-west  Frontier  Province, 
Punjab,  United  Provinces,  Central  Provinces,  and  the  Bombay 
Presidency  as  far  as  Northern  Kanara.  It  is  only  a  straggler  in  the 
dry  and  more  open  plains  of  the  North-west.  In  the  Nilgiris  and 
Travancore  ranges  it  is  replaced  by  the  more  richly-coloured  typical 
race,  also  found  in  Ceylon. 

The  Brown  Flycatcher  (Muscicapa  latirostris),  a  small  brown  and 
white  species  with  a  spotted  breast,  will  catch  the  eye  of  anyone 
who  knows  the  English  Spotted  Flycatcher,  which  it  much  resembles 
in  habits  and  appearance.  It  is  found  throughout  the  whole  of  India 
except  the  Punjab  plains,  North-west  Frontier  Province,  Sind,  and 
Rajputana,  being  known  to  breed  at  low  elevations  in  the  Himalayas, 
in  the  Vindhyan  Hills,  and  North  Kanara. 

Habits,  etc. — On  its  breeding  grounds  this  Flycatcher  is  a  bird 
of  heavy  forest,  preferring  those  ravines  and  hill-sides  where  the  age 
and  the  size  of  the  trees  provide  wide  shady  arcades  chequered  with 
occasional  patches  of  sunlight ;  in  such  places  as  it  hawks  insects 
in  the  air  it  flits  incessantly  from  bough  to  bough,  now  catching 
the  gleams  of  sunlight,  now  hidden  in  the  gloom,  eternally  restless, 
eternally  cheerful.  Its  call  or  song  is  a  long,  loud,  clear  trill, 
che-tut-tut-teee  or  wit-tweet-chitat-chitat,  which  sounds  through  the 
glades,  occasionally  becoming  harsher  and  louder  with  something 
in  it  of  the  "  stone  on  ice  "  note  of  the  common  Indian  Nightjar, 
though  rather  hurried  and  different  in  tone  ;  or  it  might  be  described 
as  tyu-jit  followed  by  a  prolonged  twittering  note.  Except  when  in 
family  parties  after  breeding  it  is  solitary  in  disposition,  though  one 
or  two  individuals  invariably  accompany  the  mixed  hunting  parties 
of  small  birds  which  are  such  a  feature  of  the  hill  jungles. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  April  to  June.  The  nest  is  a 
most  charming  little  structure  of  bright  green  mosses,  lichens,  and 
cobwebs,  in  shape  half  a  cone  or  quarter  of  a  sphere,  and  it  is  applied 
to  the  perpendicular  side  of  a  tree-trunk  or  rock  on  which  there  is 
plenty  of  moss  with  which  it  assimilates.  The  cavity  is  usually  unlined, 
but  occasionally  moss  roots  are  used.  It  is  placed  at  all  heights  from 
the  ground. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  moderately  broad  oval,  very  blunt  in  shape  with  very 
little  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  white  or  dingy  yellowish-white, 
and  the  markings  consist  of  spots  and  blotches  of  grey  and  yellowish- 
grey,  the  majority  being  collected  in  a  zone  round  the  larger  end. 

In  size  the  eggs  average  about  0-60  by  0-48  inches. 


130          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 
THE  RUFOUS-BELLIED  NILTAVA 

NlLTAVA  SUNDARA  Hodgson 

Description. — Length  6*5  inches.  Male  :  Head,  rump,  patch  on 
either  side  of  the  neck  and  in  the  angle  of  wing  shining  blue ;  rest 
of  upper  parts  very  dark  blue  ;  throat  black,  and  the  remainder  of 
the  lower  surface  chestnut.  Wings  dark  brown  edged  with  purplish 
blue  ;  tail  black  edged  blue.  Female  :  Olive  brown  with  an  ochraceous 
tint ;  tail  and  under  tail  coverts  rufous  ;  foreneck  white  with  a  small 
patch  of  brilliant  blue  on  either  side. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  brown. 

Field  Identification. — A  rather  unobtrusive  bird,  the  size  of  a 
robin,  frequenting  moderate  dense  jungle.  The  male  is  easily 
recognised  by  the  beautiful  bright  blue  of  the  upper  plumage  and 
chestnut  under  parts.  The  glistening  blue  spots  on  either  side  of 
the  neck  in  both  sexes  make  it  impossible  to  confuse  it  with  Tickell's 
Blue  Flycatcher  or  the  Blue-throated  Flycatcher. 

Distribution. — From  the  Murree  Hills  in  North-west  Himalayas,  east 
to  Szechuan  and  south  through  Yunnan  and  Burma  to  South  China 
and  Siam .  In  the  Himalayas  there  is  an  eastern  and  western  race.  The 
former,  N.  s.  sundara,  ranges  from  Nepal  to  Assam,  ascending  the 
hills  as  high  as  8000  feet,  while  in  the  Outer  Himalayas  between  5000 
and  9000  feet.  From  Kumaon  to  Murree  it  is  replaced  by  a  paler  form, 
N.  s.  whistleri.  Both  these  forms  move  lower  down  in  the  autumn  to 
the  foothills  and  in  some  localities  to  the  adjoining  plains.  Closely 
allied,  but  two  inches  larger,  is  the  Large  Niltava,  Niltava  grandis,  in 
which  the  male  lacks  the  chestnut  on  the  breast  and  the  back  is  a 
dull  bluish  ashy,  while  the  female  is  a  reddish  olivaceous  brown  with 
the  usual  brilliant  blue  neck  spots.  It  inhabits  the  Himalayas  from 
Nepal  to  Burma  and  Yunnan  at  altitudes  from  3000  to  7000  feet. 

Habits,  etc. — Although  this  Flycatcher  is  by  no  means  uncommon, 
it  is  apt  to  be  overlooked  in  spite  of  the  gay  plumage,  since  it  keeps 
to  a  great  extent  to  thick  evergreen  undergrowth  and,  as  a  rule,  rather 
damp  spots.  It  does,  however,  frequent  in  some  parts  of  its  range 
pine  forests,  but  only  where  there  are  damp  nullahs  with  plenty  of 
undergrowth  on  the  banks  of  streams  running  through  them. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  April  to  July.  The  nest  is  usually 
in  a  crevice  in  rocks  or  the  trunk  of  a  tree,  sometimes  amongst  the 
roots ;  and  occasionally  in  the  long  grass  on  the  rocky  banks  of 
streams.  It  is  well  concealed,  constructed  of  grass  and  lined  with 
fern  stems,  and  closely  resembles  that  of  the  common  Robin. 

The  eggs  are  blunt  ovals  varying  from  three  to  four,  and  they  too 
are  similar  to  those  of  the  Robin,  but  often  more  densely  mottled 
with  pale  pinkish-brown. 

They  measure  0-85  by  0-63  inches. 


THE    PARADISE    FLYCATCHER  131 

THE   PARADISE   FLYCATCHER 

TCHITREA  PARADISI  (Linnaeus) 
(Plate  ix,  Fig.  2,  opposite  page  176) 

Description. — Length  9  inches,  exclusive  of  the  sharply-graduated 
tail ;  in  older  males  the  central  pair  of  feathers  form  ribbon-like 
streamers  up  to  10  inches  in  length. 

Adult  male  :  Pure  white  ;  the  head,  neck  and  crest  glossy  bluish- 
black  ;  the  upper  parts  faintly  streaked  with  black,  the  wing-  and 
tail-feathers  heavily  lined  with  black. 

Female  and  young  male  :  Head,  neck  and  crest  glossy  bluish- 
black  ;  a  collar  round  the  neck,  chin,  throat  and  upper  breast  dark 
ashy  merging  into  white  on  the  abdomen  ;  remainder  of  upper  parts, 
wings  and  tail  bright  chestnut. 

The  plumages  of  the  male  are  not  yet  fully  understood  and 
individuals  will  be  found  in  various  stages  intermediate  to  the 
extremes  above  described.  A  phase  in  which  the  long  streamers 
and  the  upper  parts  are  chestnut  instead  of  white  may  be  dimorphic 
to  the  fully  white  adult. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  rim  round  the  eye  bright  cobalt-blue  ; 
legs  plumbeous-blue. 

The  bill  is  flattened  and  swollen  and  fringed  with  coarse  hairs. 

Field  Identification. — Older  males  cannot  be  confused  with  any 
other  species  owing  to  the  central  pair  of  tail-feathers  being  elongated 
into  ribbon-like  streamers  10  inches  long,  white  or  chestnut  in  colour. 
These  droop  gracefully  in  rest  or  stream  out  behind  the  bird  in 
flight.  Females  and  younger  males  have  a  crested,  glossy  black 
head  and  bright  chestnut  upper  parts,  wings  and  tail,  and  ashy  or 
white  under  parts.  Purely  arboreal,  active  and  lively. 

Distribution. — The  Paradise  Flycatcher  occurs  from  Turkestan, 
Afghanistan  and  Baluchistan,  through  India  and  Burma,  and  still 
farther  eastwards.  It  is  divided  into  several  races,  of  which  we  are 
concerned  with  three.  The  typical  race  occurs  throughout  the 
Peninsula  from  the  Western  United  Provinces  to  the  Brahmaputra, 
southwards  to  Cape  Comorin  and  visiting  Ceylon  in  winter.  In  that 
island  there  is  a  resident  race  as  well,  T.  p.  ceylonensis,  which  has 
always  had  the  adult  male  chestnut  instead  of  white.  The  paler  race, 
inhabiting  Afghanistan,  Turkestan,  Kashmir,  and  the  Himalayas  to 
Eastern  Nepal  is  known  as  T.  p.  leucogaster.  A  third  race  nicobarica, 
with  the  head,  neck  and  breast  ^.shy-grey  and  the  cap  and  a  short 
crest  only  black,  is  found  in  the  Duars  and  Upper  Assam,  migrating 
in  winter  to  the  Nicobars  and  Andamans. 

Very  little  is  definitely  known  about  the  status  and  movements  of 
this  common  and  widely-spread  bird,  but  it  is  undoubtedly  migratory 


132  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

to  a  large  extent.  In  the  North-western  Himalayas  and  Salt  Range 
it  is  a  summer  visitor,  only  arriving  about  March  and  April  and 
departing  about  September ;  in  most  of  the  Punjab  it  is  purely 
a  passage  migrant  in  those  months.  To  Sind  it  is  a  scarce  winter 
visitor  ;  in  many  other  localities  it  is  undoubtedly  a  resident. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Paradise  Flycatcher  has  been  aptly  named  ; 
the  long  waving  tail  plumes  recall  the  ornaments  of  the  true  Birds 
of  Paradise,  and  for  sheer  beauty  of  contrast  and  purity  of  colora- 
tion and  for  grace  of  form  and  movement,  the  adult  male  must  be 
without  a  rival  in  India.  If  Paradise  is  the  home  of  perfection, 
there  indeed  must  this  bird  find  a  place.  In  nature  its  beauty  is 
enhanced  by  its  surroundings ;  for  it  is  a  bird  of  pleasant  groves 
and  well-watered  shady  nullahs,  where  stray  gleams  of  sunshine 
strike  through  the  boughs,  bringing  into  colour  sprays  of  foliage  and 
illuminating  patches  of  the  ground  and  throwing  them  into  relief  by 
contrast  with  mysterious  shadows.  In  such  a  spot  the  Paradise 
Flycatcher  delights  to  dwell,  perching  on  the  sprays,  and  disappear- 
ing into  the  shady  depths,  now  hidden  from  sight,  now  caught  in 
the  rays  of  sunshine  as  he  flies  across  the  intervening  spaces.  The 
long  streamers  give  a  curious  effect  to  the  flight ;  the  bird  appears 
to  float  softly  along  without  particular  volition  or  ability  to  direct  its 
course,  moving  in  a  series  of  dreamy  impulses  ;  though  the  younger 
birds  with  short  tails  show  themselves  possessed  of  strong  and 
decided  flight.  All  food  is  taken  on  the  wing,  and  that  the  bird 
is  capable  of  speed  and  skill  in  the  air  is  proved  by  the  fact  that 
dragon-flies  are  sometimes  captured. 

This  species  is  purely  arboreal,  its  feet  being  too  short  and  weak 
for  progress  on  the  ground.  It  is  a  very  lively  and  cheerful  bird, 
incessantly  on  the  move  ;  males  often  flirt  their  tails  about,  opening 
and  closing  the  feathers  and  making  play  with  the  long  streamers. 
When  sitting  on  a  twig  the  carriage  is  very  upright. 

The  ordinary  call-note  is  harsh  and  disappointing,  a  sharp  grating 
note  ;  but  the  song  is  a  low  pleasant  warble  of  distinct  merit,  though 
it  is  not  very  often  heard. 

The  breeding  season  differs  according  to  locality.  In  Northern 
India  it  lasts  from  April  to  June  ;  in  the  south  it  is  earlier,  com- 
mencing about  February.  Probably  more  than  one  brood  is  raised. 

The  nest  depends  for  protection  on  its  position  rather  than  on 
concealment ;  though  at  first  sight  it  escapes  notice  by  its  ridiculous 
conspicuousness  ;  it  is  too  easy  to  see,  the  eye  and  brain  are  looking 
for  something  more  difficult  to  find.  It  is  a  very  neat  and  compactly- 
built  cup,  either  shallow  and  rounded  or  a  deep  inverted  cone  ;  it  is 
built  of  soft  grass,  scraps  of  leaf  and  moss,  all  very  firmly  plastered 
together  with  spiders'  webs  and  studded  with  small  cocoons  and 
pieces  of  lichen  ;  there  is  a  neat  lining  of  fine  grass  and  hair,  the 


PLATE  VII 


.9 

TS 


I 


O 


.  132 


THE   PARADISE    FLYCATCHER  133 

whole  forming  a  Structure  worthy  in  its  beauty  of  the  architect.  It 
is  placed  on  a  twig  or  stem,  growing  at  any  angle  or  at  any  height 
from  the  ground  from  5  to  40  feet.  The  branch  of  a  tall  mango 
tree  in  the  plains,  and  a  thick  brier  stem  in  the  hills  are  favourite 
situations.  Both  sexes  incubate,  and  the  male  may  be  seen  on  the 
nest  with  the  long  streamers  drooping  over  the  side.  In  different 
pairs  the  males  may  be  found  in  every  stage  of  plumage,  as  they 
commence  to  breed  when  a  year  old. 

The  eggs  are  in  shape  a  rather  long  oval,  somewhat  pointed 
towards  the  small  end,  and  they  are  usually  dull  and  glossless. 
The  ground-colour  varies  from  pale  pinkish-white  to  a  warm  salmon- 
pink  and  is  more  or  less  thickly  spotted  with  rather  bright  brownish- 
red  spots  which  tend  to  form  an  irregular  cap  or  zone  at  the  broad 
end.  A  few  tiny,  pale,  inky-purple  blotches  occur  also  about  the 
broad  end.  The  eggs  resemble  in  miniature  one  of  the  types  of  egg 
laid  by  the  Common  King- Crow. 

They  measure  about  0*80  by  0*60  inches. 


THE    BLACK-NAPED    FLYCATCHER 

HYPOTHYMIS  AZUREA  (Boddacrt) 
(Plate  xi,  Fig.  i,  opposite  page  220) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Male  :  Head,  neck  and  breast 
brilliant  lilac-blue,  a  minute  patch  about  the  base  of  the  bill,  a  large 
patch  on  the  back  of  the  head  and  a  crescentic  bar  on  the  throat 
deep  velvet-black  ;  remainder  of  upper  parts  dark  blue  ;  wings  and 
tail  sooty-black,  washed  with  dark  blue  ;  remainder  of  lower  parts 
white. 

Female  and  immature  birds  :  Head,  neck  and  breast  dull  ashy- 
blue  ;  remainder  of  upper  parts,  wings  and  tail  dark  ashy-brown  ; 
remainder  of  lower  parts  white. 

Iris  dark  brown ;  bill  dark  blue,  edges  and  tip  black ;  leg 
plumbeous,  claws  horny. 

The  bill  is  broad  and  flattened  at  the  base  and  fringed  with  long 
hairs  ;  legs  weak. 

Field  Identification. — A  slender,  rather  elongated  bird  of  which 
the  male  is  blue  throughout  except  for  the  white  abdomen.  The 
blue  of  the  head  and  neck  is  very  brilliant  and  emphasised  by  the 
black  velvet  skull-cap,  set  well  back,  and  the  black  crescent  on  the 
throat.  The  female  lacks  these  velvet  patches  and  is  much  browner, 
with  only  a  wash  of  blue  about  the  head  and  neck.  Usually  solitary, 
catching  flies  about  trees. 

12 


134          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

Distribution. — A  widely-distributed  species,  occurring  in  India, 
Ceylon,  Assam,  Burma,  Yunnan,  Siam,  and  Indo-China  across  to 
the  Philippines.  There  are  several  races.  The  Indian  race,  H.  a. 
styaniy  which  also  extends  eastward  to  Hainan,  occurs  throughout 
the  whole  country  except  north-west  of  a  line  from  Lucknow,  Sehore, 
and  Western  Khandesh.  H.  a.  ceylonensis,  restricted  to  Ceylon,  lacks 
the  black  on  the  throat.  It  is  largely  confined  to  the  various  hill 
ranges,  but  apparently  does  not  occur  much  over  4000  feet.  A  resident 
species  with  slight  local  movements. 

Habits,  etc. — This  beautiful  Flycatcher  is  found  in  well-wooded 
parts  of  the  country  where  it  frequents  patches  of  thick  jungle  and 
is  particularly  fond  of  shady  nullahs  overhung  by  lofty  trees.  It  is 
also  fond  of  bamboo  jungle  and  may  be  found  in  open  country  in 
clumps  of  tiees  or  in  single  trees  near  villages.  It  is  usually  solitary, 
flying  from  tree  to  tree,  remaining  a  short  time  in  each,  capturing 
insects  on  the  wing.  Now  and  again  it  flits  actively  amongst  the 
branches,  spreading  its  tail  after  the  fashion  of  a  Fantail-Flycatcher. 
It  never  descends  to  the  ground.  The  food  consists  of  a  variety  of 
small  insects  and  as  it  captures  these  it  utters  a  sharp  little  call  which 
resembles  one  of  the  calls  of  the  Grey  Tit.  At  times  several  individuals 
join  the  mixed  hunting  parties  and  travel  with  them  through  the  trees. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  the  latter  half  of  April  until 
August,  most  nests  being  found  in  June  and  early  July.  The  season 
is  somewhat  earlier  in  the  north  than  in  the  south. 

The  nest  is  a  deep  little  cup  composed  internally  of  fine  grass 
stems  well  woven  together.  Externally  it  consists  of  rather  coarser 
grass  and  vegetable  fibres  and  it  is  practically  coated  with  cobwebs 
by  which  numerous  small  white  cocoons  and  tiny  pieces  of  dry 
leaves  and  lichen  are  attached  to  the  nest.  Sometimes  some  green 
moss  is  mingled  with  the  cocoons.  It  is  very  neat  and  rather  massive' 
in  construction.  The  nest  is  usually  placed  in  a  slender  fork  of  an 
outer  branch  of  a  tree  at  no  great  height  from  the  ground  or  fastened 
to  some  pendant  bamboo  spray. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  to  four  eggs,  three  being  the  usual 
number.  The  egg  is  a  miniature  of  that  of  the  Paradise  Flycatcher. 
It  is  a  moderately  broad  and  very  regular  oval,  slightly  compressed 
towards  the  smaller  end.  The  shell  is  very  fine  and  smooth,  with 
little  or  no  gloss.  The  ground-colour  varies  from  almost  pure  white 
to  pale  salmon-pink  ;  the  markings  consist  of  minute  specks  or  small 
spots  of  red  or  reddish-pink,  varying  much  in  intensity  and  mingled 
with  a  few  small  pale  purple  spots.  As  a  rule  the  markings  are  most 
plentiful  towards  the  larger  end  of  the  egg,  tending  to  form  a  zone 
or  cap. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-69  by  0-53  inches. 


THE    WHITE-BROWED    FANTAIL-FLYCATCHER      135 

THE  WHITE-BROWED  FANTAIL-FLYCATCHER 

LEUCOCIRCA  AUREOLA  (Lesson) 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Sexes  alike,  except  that  the 
female  is  rather  browner  above.  Forehead  and  a  very  broad  stripe 
above  the  eye  white  ;  remainder  of  head  black,  the  feathers  of  the 
cheeks,  chin  and  throat  edged  with  white ;  remainder  of  upper 
plumage,  wings  and  tail  brown,  the  wing-coverts  tipped  with  white,  and 
all  but  the  central  pair  of  tail-feathers  tipped  with  white,  progressing 
more  broadly  outwards,  till  the  outermost  feather  is  almost  entirely 
white  ;  sides  of  the  breast  black  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  white. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

The  bill  is  large  and  flat  and  fringed  with  long  hairs.  The  tail 
is  very  ample  and  rounded,  spreading  into  a  fan. 

Field  Identification. — Common  throughout  the  plains.  A  small 
black  and  white  bird,  with  a  charming  bar  of  song,  which  pirouettes 
about  the  shady  branches  of  trees  incessantly  fanning  its  tail. 

Distribution. — This  Fantail- Fly  catcher  is  found  practically  through- 
out India,  Ceylon,  Assam,  Burma  and  South-west  Siam.  In  India 
it  is  found  from  the  plains  up  to  about  4000  feet  in  the  Outer 
Himalayas.  It  is  divided  into  races,  of  which  we  are  concerned 
with  two.  The  typical  race  is  found  throughout  Northern  India 
though  it  does  not  occur  in  Kashmir,  the  North-west  Frontier 
Province  or  Baluchistan.  The  southern  boundary  is  not  well-defined 
but  all  birds  from  the  Madras  Presidency  belong  to  the  darker 
Cingalese  race  (L.  a.  compressirostris)  in  which  the  white  tips  to  the 
tail-feathers  are  shorter  and  two  central  pairs  are  without  white  tips. 

Mention  must  be  made  of  two  closely-allied  species  which  are 
locally  common.  The  White-throated  Fantail  (Leucocirca  albicollis), 
which  frequents  shady  ravines  and  may  be  easily  distinguished  by  the 
sooty-brown  colour  of  the  lower  parts,  is  found  along  the  Outer 
Himalayas  up  to  about  7000  feet  from  Murree  on  the  west  (and  with  a 
wide  distribution  east  of  our  area).  The  White-spotted  Fantail 
(Leucocirca  pectoralis)  is  resident  in  Central  and  Southern  India  from 
Mount  Aboo  and  Goona  to  the  Palnis,  being  particularly  well  known 
in  the  Nilgiris.  It  is  somewhat  similar  to  the  White-browed  Fantail 
in  appearance  but  may  be  distinguished  by  having  a  brown  pectoral 
band  across  the  white  under  parts.  All  are  resident  species  though 
slight  local  movements  may  be  detected. 

Habits,  etc. — The  various  Fantail-Flycatchers  are  all  very  much 
alike  in  their  habits  and  characteristics.  The  White-browed  Fantail 
is  a  bird  of  open  country,  frequenting  groves  of  trees  in  cultivation, 
gardens  and  roadside  trees,  being  strictly  arboreal,  and  only  descending 
to  the  ground  for  occasional  momentary  visits.  For  liveliness  and 


136          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

grace  it  is  not  to  be  surpassed.  It  is  never  still,  and  the  whole  livelong 
day  it  dances  and  pirouettes,  filled  with  an  inimitable  joie-de-vivre. 
It  flits  amongst  the  leafy  boughs  of  some  giant  mango  tree  with  a 
short  jerky  flight,  and  where  it  settles  there  it  postures  ;  it  turns 
from  side  to  side  with  restive,  jerky  movements  ;  like  a  ballet-dancer 
before  her  mirror  it  tries  new  steps  and  attitudes  ;  down  drop  the 
wings,  up  jerks  the  head,  and  all  the  time  the  dainty  round  fan  of  the 
tail  is  opened  and  closed  and  flirted  with  all  the  coquetry  and  grace 
of  a  beauty  of  Andalusia.  Never  was  bird  better  named ;  wa\ch  it 
for  the  first  time  and  within  the  first  few  seconds  the  name  of  Fantail 
rises  unbidden  to  the  mind.  Now  and  again  the  bird  leaves  the 
shelter  of  the  branches  and  launches  into  the  air,  seeming  to  tumble, 
bent  on  suicide  ;  a  rapid  snap  at  some  tiny  insect  invisible  to  human 


FIG.  19 — White-browed  Fantail-Flycatcher     (|  nat.  size) 

eye,  a  swift  recovery,  and  it  has  returned  to  the  cool  shelter  of  the 
leaves,  and  is  once  more  bowing  and  dancing.  Now  and  again  the 
happy  little  dancer  breaks  into  song,  a  few  notes  in  a  regular  scale/ 
which  seem  more  a  human  melody  than  the  song  of  a  bird,  and  break 
off  just  as  groping  memory  has  almost  remembered  their  source. 
The  song  stops  suddenly  in  the  middle  of  the  scale  (it  is  always  the 
same  and  always  stops  in  the  same  place),  and  with  a  sharp  twittering 
note  the  bird  is  off  to  another  tree  where  the  minuet  begins  afresh. 

Amongst  the  other  attractions  of  this  dainty  bird  is  its  boldness  ; 
song  and  dance  go  on  in  spite  of  human  presence,  and  I  have  seen 
one  fly  down  and  snap  an  insect  off  the  shoulder  of  a  servant  who 
was  talking  to  me.  The  food  consists  entirely  of  insects,  mostly  of 
the  minutest  size,  and  throughout  the  whole  of  the  bird's  movements 
can  be  heard  the  snapping  of  its  beak  as  it  feeds. 

Eggs  may  be  found  from  the  end  of  February  to  the  early  part 
of  August ;  though  the  majority  will  be  found  in  March  and  July. 
Two  broods  are  reared,  and  this  often  from  the  same  nest. 

The  nest  is  a  most  beautiful  structure.     It  is  a  tiny  cup,  small, 


THE    WHITE-BROWED    FANTAIL-FLYCATCHER      137 

even  for  the  size  of  the  bird,  and  is  attached  to  the  upper  surface  of 
a  twig  or  small  branch,  often  at  the  junction  of  a  fork.  Viewed  from 
the  ground  it  has  much  the  appearance  of  a  small  hornet's  nest. 

It  is  made  of  fine  fibres  and  grasses  closely  welded  and  bound 
with  cobwebs  and  sometimes  studded  with  small  cocoons  or  spiders' 
egg-bags.  There  is  a  neat  lining  of  fine  grass  stems.  It  is  built  at 
any  height  from  4  to  40  feet  from  the  ground.  Even  in  the  nest  the 
bird  is  restless,  often  turning  about,  spreading  her  tail,  or  flying  off 
for  a  minute  or  two.  The  male  remains  very  faithfully  in  the  vicinity, 
and  without  the  least  hesitation  launches  out  to  attack  passing  Crows 
or  other  possible  enemies. 

The  eggs  vary  from  two  to  four  in  number,  while  three  is  the 
usual  clutch.  They  are  moderately  broad  ovals  compressed  towards 
the  small  end.  The  ground-colour  varies  from  pure  white  to  very 
pale  yellowish-brown  or  dingy  cream  colour ;  and  the  markings  are 
generally  largely  confined  to  a  broad  irregular  zone  near  the  large  end 
of  greyish-brown  specks  and  spots,  with  secondary  markings  of  neutral 
tint  and  pale  grey  or  faint  inky-purple.  They  are  rather  like  miniature 
Shrikes'  eggs. 

They  measure  about  0-66  by  0-51  inches. 


THE    GREAT    GREY    SHRIKE 

LANIUS  EXCUBITOR  Linnaeus 

Description. — Length  10  inches.  Sexes  alike.  A  very  broad  band 
from  the  beak  through  the  eye  black  ;  upper  plumage  bluish-grey, 
merging  into  white  over  the  wings  ;  wings  black,  variegated  with 
grey  and  white ;  tail  black,  the  feathers  growing  increasingly  white 
outwards  ;  the  whole  lower  plumage  white. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Beak  strong  and  hooked,  with  a  deep  notch  at  the  tip  of  the  upper 
mandible  ;  tail  rather  long  and  graduated. 

Field  Identification. — Plains  of  Continental  India.  A  grey  and 
white  bird  with  a  heavy  head  marked  with  a  conspicuous  black  band 
through  the  eye  and  with  much  black  in  the  wings  and  tail ;  solitary 
or  in  pairs,  in  open  country  sitting  on  the  tops  of  large  bushes. 

Distribution. — The  Great  Grey  Shrike  in  various  races  has  a  very 
wide  distribution  through  Europe,  Africa,  Asia,  and  Northern  America. 
In  Northern  India  it  is  represented  by  a  resident  form  named  L.  e. 
lahtora,  which  is  common  and  generally  distributed.  It  is  found  from 
roughly  the  line  of  the  Indus  and  from  the  foot  of  the  Himalayas  to 
the  Rajmahal  Hills,  Manbhum  and  Lohardaga  in  Bihar,  southwards 
to  Belgaum  and  Chanda.  It  is  not  found  in  the  hill  ranges. 

Habits,  etc. — This  Shrike  is  a  familiar  species  in  open  country, 


138          POPULAR   HANDBOOK    OF   INDIAN    BIRDS 

preferring  the  more  barren  stretches  of  semi-desert  country  or  wide 
open  plains  to  cultivation,  though  it  is  found  also  in  the  latter. 
Forest  areas  it  avoids.  It  is  found  solitary  or  in  pairs  and  is  very 
conspicuous  from  its  white,  black  and  grey  plumage  and  its  habit 
of  perching  on  the  tops  of  bushes  and  small  trees.  It  captures 
most  of  its  food  on  the  ground,  leaving  its  vantage-point  from  time 
to  time  to  fly  down  after  a  toothsome  morsel  and  in  returning  to 
the  perch  it  flies  low  over  the  ground  and  then  turns  sharply  up  to 
settle ;  the  flight  is  undulating  but  strong.  Each  bird  or  pair%  have 
their  own  beat  and  resent  the  intrusion  of  other  species.  The  alarm- 
note  is  a  harsh  grating  call,  but  the  bird  is  capable  of  considerable 
powers  of  mimicry  which  serve  it  as  a  song.  The  food  consists  largely 


v 
FIG.  20 — Great  Grey  Shrike     (J  nat.  size) 

of  beetles,  crickets,  lizards,  and  ants,  and  like  other  Shrikes  this  species 
has  the  habit  of  impaling  surplus  food  on  thorns  to  form  a  larder. 

The  breeding  season  extends  from  January  to  October,  but  the 
majority  of  eggs  are  laid  in  March  or  April.  Two  broods  are 
sometimes  reared. 

The  nest  is  a  large  bulky  cup,  solid  and  well  constructed,  and 
placed  at  moderate  heights  from  4  to  ra  feet  up  in  a  thick  bush  or 
small  tree,  preferably  thorny  in  character.  It  is  composed  of  thorny 
twigs,  coarse  grass  roots  and  the  like,  thickly  lined  with  wool,  fibres, 
cotton  and  other  miscellaneous  materials  soft  in  character. 

The  eggs  vary  in  number  from  three  to  six.  In  shape  they  are 
a  broad  oval,  somewhat  pointed  towards  the  smaller  end.  The 
texture  is  fine  and  close  and  there  is  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground- 
colour is  delicate  greenish-white,  moderately  blotched  and  spotted 
with  various  shades  of  brown  and  purple,  the  markings  in  nearly 
every  case  collecting  into  a  wide  zone  round  the  broader  end. 

The  eggs  measure  about  1*05  by  o»8o  inches. 


•       THE    BAY-BACKED    SHRIKE  139 

THE    BAY-BACKED    SHRIKE 

LANIUS  VITTATUS  Valenciennes 
(Plate  ix,  Fig.  i,  opposite  page  176) 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Sexes  alike.  A  broad  band 
through  the  eye  joined  by  a  broad  band  across  the  base  of  the  beak 
black ;  crown  and  upper  neck  grey,  divided  from  the  black  by  a 
whitish  area ;  back  and  shoulders  deep  chestnut-maroon ;  rump 
white  ;  wings  black,  with  a  white  patch  at  the  base  of  the  outer 
flight-feathers  ;  tail  black  with  much  white  on  the  outer  feathers  ; 
lower  parts  white  except  for  the  breast  and  flanks  which  are  fulvous. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

The  bill  has  a  notch  at  the  tip  of  the  upper  mandible  ;  tail  rather 
long  and  graduated. 

Field  Identification. — Common  in  cultivation  ;  a  small  bird  with 
a  longish  tail,  broad  grey  and  white  head  with  heavy  black  marking, 
maroon  back  and  black  and  white  tail,  the  markings  sharply  defined 
and  conspicuous  ;  perches  in  exposed  positions. 

Distribution. — This  Shrike  is  a  purely  Asiatic  species,  occurring 
from  the  west  in  Afghanistan  and  Baluchistan  right  across  the  whole 
Peninsula  of  India  to  Darbhanga,  the  Rajmahal  Hills  and  Midnapur. 
It  occurs  in  the  Himalayas,  but  sparingly  at  heights  up  to  6000  feet, 
extending  often  far  into  the  valleys  as  in  Chitral.  In  the  south  it 
reaches  Cape  Comorin  but  it  avoids  the  rain  areas  of  the  south-west. 
In  portions  of  its  range  it  is  migratory,  but  for  the  most  part  it  is  a 
resident  species. 

Habits,  etc. — This  charming  little  Shrike  is  a  bird  of  open  country 
and  cultivation  with  groves  of  trees,  and  it  avoids  both  desert  country 
and  thick  jungle.  It  perches  on  telegraph-wires  and  the  lower  boughs 
of  trees,  and  on  large  bushes  some  6  to  10  feet  from  the  ground,  and 
watches  thence  for  insect  life  to  stir  in  the  vicinity  ;  a  desirable  morsel 
spied,  it  flies  down  to  secure  it,  and  after  a  meal  upon  the  ground 
returns  to  its  perch.  It  has  a  fixed  territory,  and  seldom  stirs  far 
from  its  established  perch.  The  food  consists  of  insects,  caterpillars, 
beetles,  and  the  like. 

The  ordinary  call  is  a  harsh  churring  note,  but  the  bird  has  a 
pleasant  little  warbling  song  and  is  something  of  a  mimic,  imitating 
the  notes  of  other  birds. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  March  to  September,  and  it  is 
possible  that  two  broods  are  often  reared.  The  nest  is  a  rather 
massive,  compactly  woven  and  very  beautiful  cup  composed  of  fine 
grass,  rags,  feathers,  soft  twine,  and  a  few  fine  twigs,  the  exterior 
being  neatly  plastered  with  cobwebs ;  it  is  lined,  as  a  rule,  with  fine 


140          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

grass.  The  situation  chosen  for  the  nest  is  in  the  fork  of  a  small 
tree,  at  heights  usually  about  6  to  10  feet'  from  the  ground.  The 
nest  is  seldom  well  concealed,  and  though  the  bird  generally  comes 
close  to  an  intruder  and  feigns  readiness  to  attack,  its  attention  is 
easily  distracted  by  the  sight  of  a  caterpillar  or  other  succulent  morsel. 

The  clutch  consists  normally  of  four  eggs,  but  as  many  as  six 
may  be  found.  The  eggs  are  very  typical  of  the  genus,  broad  rather 
blunt  ovals,  fine  in  texture  with  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground-colour 
is  dull  white  tinged  with  stone,  greenish  or  grey ;  near  the  middle 
of  the  egg  towards  the  broad  end  is  a  wide,  conspicuous  but  broken 
and  irregular  zone  of  feeble  spots  and  blotches  of  pale  yellowish-brown 
and  pale  lilac,  a  few  of  these  specks  and  frecklings  being  also  dotted 
about  the  rest  of  the  surface  of  the  egg. 

The  eggs  measure  about  O'  83  by  o-  66  inches. 


THE    BROWN    SHRIKE 
LANIUS  CRISTATUS  Linnaeus 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
reddish-brown,  brighter  on  the  crown  and  nape  ;  a  faint  white  line 
over  and  a  broad  bladkish  line  through  the  eye  ending  with  the  ear- 
coverts  ;  wings  dark  brown,  the  feathers  margined  with  rufous  ;  tail 
reddish-brown  with  pale  tips  to  the  feathers  ;  lower  plumage  fulvous, 
whiter  on  the  throat  and  belly  and  usually  with  the  breast  and  flanks 
barred  finely  with  black. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  horny-brown,  paler  at  gape  and  base  of  lower 
mandible  ;  legs  bluish-grey,  claws  brown. 

The  bill  has  a  notch  at  the  tip  of  the  upper  mandible  ;  tail  fairly 
long  and  graduated.  -^ 

Field  Identification. — A  typical  Shrike,  reddish-brown  above  with 
a  dark  line  through  the  eye  and  fulvous  white  below.  Found  sitting 
on-  bushes  and  fences  in  open  country  and  the  possessor  of  a  very 
harsh  voice. 

Distribution. — This  Shrike  breeds  over  a  great  part  of  Central  Asia 
and  Siberia  and  Northern  China  and  in  winter  migrates  south  to 
North-east  Africa  and  southerr;  ^\sia  generally.  We  are  concerned 
with  two  races.  The  typical  race  winters  in  India  east  of  a  line  from 
Cawnpora  to  Mhow  and  also  in  Ceylon  and  Burma.  The  Turkestan 
race  L.  c.  phoenicuroides  which  is  more  brightly  coloured  and  has  a 
small  white  patch  in  the  wing  breeds  in  Baluchistan  and  passes  on 
passage  through  the  North-west  Frontier  Province,  the  Punjab  and 
Sind  to  its  winter  quarters  in  North-east  Africa. 

A  very  similar'  species  is  the  Pale-brown  Shrike  (Laniiis  isabellinus) 


THE    BROWN    SHRIKE  141 

which  is  a  common  winter  visitor  to  the  more  barren  areas  of  North- 
west India.  The  upper  parts  are  sandy-brown  and  there  is  a  small 
white  patch  at  the  base  of  the  wing- quills. 

Habits,  etc. — This  Shrike  may  be  found  in  the  cold  weather  in 
every  type  of  country  ranging  from  cultivation  and  dry  scrub  or  mixed 
bamboo  jungle  to  the  fringes  of  forest  and  often  for  considerable 
distances  within  forest  where  cart-tracks  and  clearings  encourage  it 
to  enter.  In  such  terrain  the  bird  is  found  singly,  sitting  on  a  telegraph- 
wire  or  a  fence  or  a  bush  or  small  tree  from  which  it  keeps  a  keen 
lookout  for  its  insect  prey,  launching  out  to  capture  it  either  in  the 
air  or  on  the  ground.  It  is  apt  to  be  shy  and  difficult*  to  approach 
and  is  always  an  active  bird  except  when  \  sheltering  from  the  heat  of 
the  day. 

The  voice  is  singularly  harsh,  chr-r-r-ri,  comparable  with  but  easily 
distinguished  from  the  call  of  the  Rufous-backed  Shrike. 

This  species  is  one  of  the  earliest  to  arrive  and  one  of  the  latest  to 
depart  of  the  winter  visitors  to  India.  The  first  arrivals  may  be  noted 
at  the  end  of  August,  even  as  far  south  as  Ceylon,  and  some  birds  wait 
into  May.  A  few  non-breeding  birds  also  seem  to  linger  in  the  plains 
throughout  the  hot  weather. 

In  Baluchistan  the  race'L.  c.  phoenicuroides  breeds  in  May  and  June 
m  a  zone  between  5000  and  7000  feet.  The  nest  is  a  massive  cup  of 
the  usual  Shrike  type  built  of  grass  and  bents  and  lined  with  seed- 
down,  wool  and  scraps  of  cloth.  They  are  placed  in  trees  or  more 
usually  in  low  thorn  bushes. 

The  clutch  consists  of  four  to  six  eggs. 

The  eggs  are  rather  variable  in  shape,  some  being  long  ovals  and 
others  more  broad.  The  ground-colour  varies  from  pale  cream  to 
warm  salmon-pink  or  less  commonly  pale  stone-colour  or  various 
shades  of  pale  greenish.  The  markings  are  spots  and  blotches,  mostly 
in  a  zone  round  the  broad  end,  and  they  vary  also  according  to  the 
ground-colour  from  chestnut  red  to  grey-brown  and  olive-brown  with 
secondary  markings  of  lavender  and  grey. 
*  The  egg  measures  about  0*75  by  0*65  inches. 


THE    RUFOUS-BACKED    SHRIKE 
LANIUS  SCHACH  Linnaeus 

Description. — Length  10  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Forehead  and  a 
broad  band  through  the  eye  black ;  crown  to  the  centre  of  the  back 
clear  pale  grey  merging  on  the  shoulders  and  rump  into  bright-rufous  ; 
wings  black  with  often  a  small  white  patch  at  the  base  of  the  outer 
flight-feathers  ;  tail  black  and  brown,  the  feathers  tipped  with  rufous  ; 


142  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

the  whole  of  the  lower  plumage  white,  washed  with  rufous  on  the 
flanks  and  vent. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

A  notch  at  the  tip  of  the  upper  mandible;  tail  rather  long  and 
graduated. 

Field  Identification. — Perches  conspicuously  in  open  country ; 
slender  build  with  heavy  head  and  long  tail,  conspicuous  black 
mark  through  eye,  grey  back  with  rufous  edging,  dark  wings  and 
tail  and  pale  under  parts  very  distinctive  ;  distinguish  from  Bay- 
backed  Shrike  by  larger  size,  less  black  on  face,  and  grey  not  maroon 
back. 

Distribution. — Lanius  schach  is  a  common  and  widely-distributed 
form  of  Shrike  which  occurs  throughout  India  to  China,  and  is 
divided  into  several  races.  Four  of  these  occur  within  our  area. 

The  best  known  is  L.  s.  erythro- 
notusy  with  pale  grey  upper 
parts  and  much  rufous  on  the 
lower  back  and  scapulars, 
which  breeds  in  Turkestan, 
Gilgit,  Kashmir,  the  Outer 
Western  Himalayas,  North- 
west Frontier  Province, 
Baluchistan,  Sind  and  the 

F,G.  2I-Head  of  Rufous-backed  Shrike     Pu,nJab>  *nd  winters  in  Pfnin' 

(11  nat.  size)  sular  India.     L.  s.  nepalensis, 

with    the    upper    parts    dark 

bluish-slate  and  the  rufous  confined  to  the  rump,  breeds  in  Tibet, 
and  is  a  common  winter  visitor  to  the  Nepal  Valley  and  the  Outer 
Eastern  Himalayas.  L.  s.  tephronotus,  breeding  in  Suru  and  Lahul, 
and  visiting  Upper  India  in  winter,  is  intermediate  between  those 
two  races.  L.  s.  caniceps,  very  similar  to  erythronotus  but  with  less 
rufous  on  the  upper  parts,  is  resident  in  Central  and  Southern 
India  and  Ceylon,  breeding  abundantly  in  the  hill  ranges  of  the 
south-west.  The  Tibetan  and  Lahul  races  breed  up  to  10,000  to 
12,000  feet,  and  the  other  races  up  to  7000  to  8000  feet. 

A  species  of  similar  type,  but  at  once  recognised  by  the  black 
head,  is  the  Black-headed  Shrike  (Lanius  nasutus)  which  is  found  in 
some  numbers  throughout  the  north-eastern  quarter  of  India  from 
Kumaon  down  to  Nagpur  and  Vizagapatam  district,  breeding  locally 
in  parts  of  this  area. 

Habits,  etc. — This  bird  is  a  typical  Shrike,  avoiding  both  forest 
areas  and  desert,  and  preferring  fairly  open  ground  about  cultivation 
where  a  conspicuous  perch  on  top  of  a  bush  or  tree  gives  it  a  view 
all  around.  The  southern  form,  caniceps,  is  apparently  strictly  resident, 
but  the  northern  races  are  largely  migrants,  and  their  movements 


THE    RUFOUS-BACKED    SHRIKE  143 

remain  to  be  worked  out,  the  situation  being  obscured  by  the  fact 
that  in  some  areas  a  proportion  of  individuals  are  resident  and  winter 
where  they  breed.  This  Shrike  has  the  ferocity  and  boldness  which 
is  a  characteristic  of  the  larger  members  of  the  genus.  It  sits  up 
on  its  perch  motionless,  its  sharp  eyes  watching  the  ground  intently 
for  moving  life,  cricket  or  mouse,  grasshopper  or  newly-fledged  bird, 
and  all  alike  succumb  to  the  sudden  dash  and  the  strong-hooked 
beak.  And  its  hunting  never  stops,  for  even  if  its  voracious  appetite 
is  satisfied  it  has  the  family  habit  of  maintaining  a  "  larder  "  in  which 
the  surplus  prey  is  stuck  on  to  thorns.  It  is  this  habit  which  has 
given  to  Shrikes  the  popular  name  of  "  Butcher-bird."  Small  birds 
and  mammals,  bumble-bees,  grasshoppers,  dragon-flies,  beetles, 
butterflies,  and  the  like  may  all  be  found  firmly  lodged  in  a  favourite 
tree,  often  eight  or  ten  of  them  together.  On  occasions,  when  feeding, 
the  Shrike  holds  its  food  up  in  one  foot  after  the  fashion  of  a  Parrot. 

The  ordinary  call-note  is  harsh  and  scolding,  gerlek-gerlek  or 
julek-julek,  followed  by  a  yapping  yaon-yaon.  The  song  is  short 
and  pleasant  but  not  often  heard,  while  the  bird  is  an  excellent  mimic, 
often  reeling  off  a  regular  repertory  of  other  birds'  notes. 

The  breeding  season  is  somewhat  irregular.  Nests  may  be  found 
in  different  areas  from  February  to  August,  and  probably  more  than 
one  brood  is  raised  ;  but  most  nests  will  be  found  from  April  to 
July  whatever  the  locality. 

The  nest  is  a  large,  massive  cup,  sometimes  neat  and  well  built, 
at  other  times  a  most  disreputable  structure.  It  is  composed  of  a 
medley  of  materials,  twigs,  roots,  bents,  grass,  rags,  and  lumps  of 
wool,  and  the  lining  consists  of  fine  grass  or  wool  and  hair.  It  is 
placed  in  a  tree  or  bush,  preferably  a  thorny  one,  at  heights  varying 
from  4  to  20  feet  from  the  ground.  The  nest  of  the  Tibetan  race 
may,  however,  be  found  in  small  bushes,  only  a  foot  from  the  ground, 
but  often  there  is  not  much  choice  of  site  in  the  barren  hill-sides 
where  it  breeds. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  to  six  eggs. 

In  appearance  they  are  typical  of  the  genus,  broad  heavy  eggs, 
with  very  little  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  a  delicate  greenish- 
white,  in  some  eggs  pale  stone-colour  or  creamy ;  the  markings 
consist  of  small  specks  and  larger  blotches  of  brown  or  reddish- 
brown,  with  secondary  markings  of  neutral  tint  and  dark  grey.  They 
are  never  very  thickly  distributed  and  generally  tend  to  form  a  zone 
about  the  broad  end. 

They  measure  about  0-92  by  0-70  inches. 


144          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

THE    PIED-SHRIKE 

HEMIPUS  PICATUS  (Sykes) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Male  :  Top  and  sides  of  the  head 
and  neck  and  the  back  glossy  black,  the  feathers  of  the  rump  broadly 
tipped  with  white  ;  wings  black,  a  white  line  running  through  the 
centre  of  the  closed  wing ;  tail  black,  all  but  the  middle  feathers 
broadly  tipped  with  white,  the  whole  outer  edge  of  the  outer  feather 
white  ;  cheeks  and  sides  of  the  neck  white,  produced  to  form  an 
indistinct  half-collar ;  lower  plumage  pale  vinaceous-grey  shading  into 
white  on  the  chin  and  under  the  tail. 

Female  :  Similar  to  the  male  but  the  black  is  replaced  by  sooty- 
brown. 

Iris  yellowish-brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  blackish-brown. 

The  bill  is  broad  and  flattened  like  that  of  a  Flycatcher. 

Field  Identification. — A  small  black  and  white  or  brown,  black 
and  white  bird  found  in  parties  in  trees,  hopping  about  the  branches 
like  Woodshrikes  or  flying  into  the  air  to  catch  insects  like  Flycatchers. 
Largely  confined  to  hill  jungles. 

Distribution. — The  typical  race  as  described  above  is  found  in 
Saugor  district ;  along  the  west  coast  of  Peninsular  India  from  the 
Satpuras  to  the  Travancore  Hills ;  in  parts  of  the  Eastern  Ghats  ; 
in  Lower  Bengal  and  Lower  Assam  and  into  Lower  Burma  and 
Tenasserim.  It  extends  also  further  east  to  Sumatra  and  Borneo. 
It  occurs  from  500  to  about  6000  feet. 

In  the  Sub-Himalayan  ranges  up  to  5000  feet  from  Simla  (very 
rare)  eastwards,  in  Upper  Assam  and  Upper  Burma  to  Northern 
Yunnan  and  North  Siam  it  is  replaced  by  H.  p.  capitalis  in  which 
the  male  differs  in  having  the  back  and  rump  smoky-brown  instead 
of  glossy  black.  The  females  are  indistinguishable.  There  is  also 
an  island  race,  //.  p.  leggei,  in  Ceylon.  In  this  the  male  and  female 
are  exactly  alike  and  indistinguishable  from  the  male  of  the  typical 
race.  The  racial  differences  in  this  species  thus  form  a  most  interesting 
evolutionary  sequence.  A  resident  species. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Pied- Shrike  is  a  strictly  arboreal  bird.  It  is 
found  in  many  types  of  tree-growth,  in  lofty  trees,  in  the  fringe  of 
evergreen  jungle,  in  the  foliage  of  secondary  growth  in  thin  jungle 
and  even  on  occasion  in  roadside  bushes  and  mere  scrub.  Except 
in  the  breeding  season  it  is  found  in  small  parties  of  about  half  a 
dozen  individuals  and  these  often  join  the  mixed  hunting  parties. 
In  habits  these  birds  resemble  both  the  Flycatchers  and  the  Wood- 
shrikes  and  between  the  latter  and  the  true  Shrikes  they  form  a  very 
definite  connecting  link.  Like  the  Woodshrikes  the  members  of  a 


THE   PIED-SHRIKE  145 

party  follow  each  other  from  tree  to  tree,  searching  the  twigs  and  leaves 
for  the  insect  life  which  forms  their  food.  Like  the  Flycatchers  they 
capture  winged  prey  by  launching  graceful  sallies  after  it  into  the 
air,  turning  and  twisting  in  mid-air  with  great  agility.  The  notes, 
frequently  uttered,  are  a  little  trill — whi-ri-riy  whi-ri-ri,  whi-ri-ri-ri, 
etc. — very  reminiscent  of  a  cheap  squeaky  cracker  whistle. 

The  breeding  season  of  the  typical  form  is  from  March  to  May 
in  Western  India,  but  that  of  the  brown-backed  race  capltalis  is 
apparently  somewhat  later,  about  May  and  June.  The  nest  is  a  very 
beautiful  structure  ;  it  is  composed  of  grass  and  fine  roots  covered 
externally  with  cobwebs  and  pieces  of  grey  lichen  and  moss,  taken 
apparently  from  the  tree  on  which  it  is  built,  so  that  it  corresponds 
almost  exactly  with  the  branch  or  fork  in  which  it  is  placed.  This 
is  usually  at  a  considerable  height  from  the  ground  and  the  branch 
chosen  is  often  a  bare  one.  In  shape  the  nest  is  a  shallow  cup  with 
a  cavity  i£  inches  across  and  J  inch  deep,  and  it  is  so  small  for  the 
size  of  the  bird  that  when  the  latter  is  sitting  the  whole  of  the  tail 
and  the  body  down  to  the  lower  part  of  the  breast  is  visible  to  the 
observer  below.  The  bird,  in  fact,  merely  appears  to  be  sitting  on  a 
small  lump  of  moss  and  lichen. 

The  nestlings  have  a  remarkable  habit  of  sitting  motionless  with 
their  eyes  shut  and  their  heads  raised  together  in  the  centre  of  the 
nest,  so  that  they  and  the  nest  together  appear  to  form  a  dead  spur 
of  the  branch  on  which  the  nest  is  built. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  or  three  eggs. 

The  eggs  are  very  Shrike-like  in  appearance,  rather  elongated 
ovals  somewhat  obtuse  at  both  ends  and  entirely  devoid  of  gloss. 
The  ground-colour  is  a  pale  greenish  or  greyish-white,  profusely 
blotched,  spotted  and  streaked  with  darker  and  lighter  shades  of 
umber-brown  and  dull  inky-purple.  These  markings  are  usually  in  a 
zone  at  one  end.  In  some  specimens  the  markings  are  sparse  and  small. 

In  size  the  eggs  average  about  0-65  by  0-5  inches. 


THE    COMMON    WOOD-SHRIKE 

TEPHRODORNIS  PONDICERIANUS  (Gmelin) 

(Plate  ix,  Fig.  3,  opposite  page  176) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  whole  upper 
plumage  ashy-brown,  the  feathers  of  the  wings  edged  paler ;  tail 
dark  brown,  the  central  pair  of  feathers  tinged  with  ashy,  the  two 
outer  pairs  almost  entirely  white  ;  a  broad  whitish  streak  over  the 
eye,  and  a  broad  dark  band  below  it ;  lower  plumage  ashy,  paler 
down  the  centre. 

Iris  yellowish-brown ;  bill  dark  horn ;  legs  dark  plumbeous-brown. 

K 


146  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

Field  Identification. — Common  plains  species ;  arboreal,  in  parties  ; 
a  quiet  grey  bird  with  a  pale  eyebrow  and  a  dark  band  through  the 
eye,  and  white  outer  feathers  in  the  tail. 

Distribution. — The  Wood-Shrike  is  found  almost  throughout  India, 
Burma,  Ceylon,  Siam,  and  Annam,  and  is  divided  into  races.  The 
typical  race  is  found  from  the  base  of  the  Himalayas  to  Cape  Comorin, 
and  on  the  east  to  Burma  ;  on  the  west  it  is  replaced  by  T.  p.  pallidus, 
a  paler  bird,  which  is  found  from  the  line  of  the  River  Indus  through 
the  Punjab  and  Sind  to  about  Kalka,  Ambala,  the  Western  United 
Provinces  and  Khandesh.  The  race  found  in  Ceylon,  T.  p.  affinis, 
which  is  darker  below.  It  is  a  resident  species. 

A  very  similar  but  larger  species,  the  Nepal  Wood-Shrike  (Tephro- 
dornis  gularis),  is  found  in  the  Eastern  Himalayas  and  has  another  race 
on  the  Western  Ghats  from  Belgaum  southwards.  In  the  latter  the 
adult  has  the  upper  parts  a  bluish-ash  colour. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Wood-Shrike  is  a  very  quiet,  unobtrusive  little 
bird  which  is  almost  entirely  arboreal,  hopping  about  the  branches 
of  trees  and  searching  the  stems  and  leaves  for  insects  and  their 
larvae.  Occasionally  it  descends  to  the  undergrowth  and  even  to 
the  ground  in  its  search  for  food,  but  this  is  unusual  and  it  normally 
moves  from  tree  to  tree,  never  leaving  their  cover.  Forest  is  avoided, 
the  trees  preferred  being  those  of  gardens,  hedgerows  and  cultivation, 
wayside  trees  and  small  groves.  It  is  generally  met  with  in  pairs, 
but  in  winter  small  parties  collect  and  hunt  in  company. 

The  males  have  a  very  sweet  and  distinctive  call  of  several  whistling 
notes,  wheel  wheel,  followed  by  a  quick  repeated  interrogative  whi-whi- 
whi-whi,  besides  which  some  low  trills  are  uttered  in  the  breeding 
season. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  February  to  June,  but  most  eggs 
will  be  found  in  March  and  April.  The  nest  is  a  very  beautiful 
structure,  and  rather  small  for  the  size  of  the  bird.  It  is  a  broad, 
shallow  cup,  composed  of  fine  bents,  fragments  of  bark  and  grass 
stems,  bound  together  with  silky  fibres  and  smeared  exteriorly  with 
cobwebs,  the  whole  being  very  compact  and  neat.  The  interior  is 
lined  with  wool  and  hair.  The  nest  is  built  in  a  small  horizontal 
fork  of  a  tree  from  5  to  30  feet  from  the  ground  and  is  difficult  to  see 
until  the  bird  betrays  it. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  or  three  eggs.  They  resemble  the 
eggs  of  the  true  Shrikes  and  are  broad,  regular  ovals,  of  fine  texture, 
with  very  little  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  cream,  stone,  or  pale 
greenish-white,  spotted  and  blotched  with  yellowish-  and  reddish- 
brown  ;  many  of  these  markings  are  gathered  into  a  conspicuous 
but  ill-defined  zone  round  the  broad  end,  in  which  are  intermingled 
clouds  of  pale  and  dingy  purple. 

The  eggs  measure  about  0-75  by  0*6 1  inches. 


THE    SCARLET    MINIVET  147 

THE    SCARLET   MINIVET 
PERICROCOTUS  SPECIOSUS  (Latham) 

Description— -Length  9  inches.  Male:  Upper  plumage  to  the 
middle  back,  chin  and  throat  glossy  black;  remainder  of  body 
plumage  scarlet ;  wing  black  with  a  very  broad  band  of  scarlet 
running  through  it,  and  with  large  round  scarlet  spots  on  the  later 
secondaries  ;  tail  scarlet,  the  central  pair  of  feathers  black. 

Female  :  Forehead  yellow,  fading  on  to  the  crown  ;  upper  plumage 
deep  grey  ;  rump  and  upper  tail-coverts  olive-yellow  ;  lower  plumage 
yellow ;  wings  blackish-brown,  with  a  broad  band  of  yellow  running 
through  them,  and  with  round  yellow  spots  on  the  later  secondaries  ; 
central  pair  of  tail-feathers  black ;  the  next  pair  black  with  the  end 
of  the  outer  web  yellow  ;  remaining  tail-feathers  yellow  with  a  black 
patch  at  their  bases. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

The  tail  is  long  and  very  deeply  graduated. 

Field  Identification. — Hill  species ;  purely  arboreal ;  found  in 
flocks  which  immediately  attract  attention  by  the  scarlet  and  black 
plumage  of  the  males  and  the  yellow  and  dark  plumage  of  the  females. 
The  larger  size  and  oval  spots  on  the  secondaries  distinguish  it  from 
the  Short-billed  Minivet. 

Distribution. — The  Scarlet  Minivet  has  a  wide  distribution  through 
the  Himalayas,  part  of  Peninsular  India,  Assam,  and  Burma  to  China 
and  Hainan,  as  a  resident  species,  though  it  appears  to  move 
altitudinally  according  to  season.  It  is  divided  into  several  races, 
of  which  two  concern  us.  The  typical  race  is  found  throughout 
the  Lower  Himalayas,  below  about  6000  feet  from  the  Sutlej  Valley 
eastwards.  P.  s.  semiruber,  with  the  central  tail-feathers  largely  red, 
is  found  in  Lower  Bengal,  Orissa,  the  Central  Provinces,  and  the 
Vizagapatan  Ghats. 

Another  similar  species,  the  Orange  Minivet  (Pericrocotus 
flammeus),  is  common  and  resident  along  the  forests  of  the  Western 
Ghats  from  Khandesh  to  Cape  Comorin,  occurring  also  in  the 
Shevaroy  Hills  and  Ceylon.  It  is  found  up  to  6000  feet.  In  this 
the  male  has  the  lower  parts  orange-red. 

Habits,  etc.— This  Minivet  keeps  to  well-wooded  country,  and  is 
a  purely  arboreal  species,  never  descending  to  the  ground.  Out  of 
the  breeding  season  it  is  found  in  small  flocks  which  travel  through 
the  tops  of  the  trees  searching  for  insects,  usually  alone,  but  some- 
times in  company  with  other  species  of  insectivorous  birds.  Like 
other  Minivets,  these  birds  flit  from  tree  to  tree  in  follow-my-leader 
fashion,  the  red  and  yellow  of  the  two  sexes  glinting  in  the  sunlight, 
while  their  cheery  pleasant  calls  still  further  enhance  the  pleasure  of 
meeting  with  a  flock. 


148  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

The  breeding  season  of  the  Himalayan  race  is  from  the  end  of 
April  to  early  June. 

The  nest  is  a  shallow,  massive  little  cup  composed  of  fine  twigs, 
roots  and  grass-stems,  bound  together  exteriorly  with  spiders'  webs, 
and  studded  with  lichens,  mosses  and  scraps  of  bark.  It  is  placed 
on  a  bough  of  a  tree,  and  is  well  concealed,  appearing  to  be  merely 
an  excrescence  of  the  wood. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  or  three  eggs.  These  are  moderately 
broad  ovals,  fine  in  texture  and  with  practically  no  gloss.  The  ground- 
colour is  pale  sea-green,  and  the  markings  consist  of  spots  and  blotches 
of  dark  brown  and  lavender. 

They  measure  about  0-90  by  0-67  inches. 


THE    SHORT-BILLED    MINIVET 
PERICROCOTUS  BREVIROSTRIS  (Vigors) l 

(Plate  XIH,  Fig.  3,  opposite  page  264) 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Male  :  Upper  plumage  to  the 
middle  back,  chin  and  throat  glossy  black ;  remainder  of  body 
plumage  scarlet ;  wing  black  with  a  broad  band  of  scarlet  running 
through  it ;  central  tail-feathers  black  ;  the  next  pair  black  with  the 
greater  portion  of  the  outer  web  scarlet ;  the  others  all  scarlet  with 
a  black  patch  at  their  bases. 

Female  :  Forehead  greenish-yellow,  fading  on  to  the  crown  ;  upper 
plumage  light  grey  tinged  with  olive  ;  rump  and  upper  tail-coverts 
olive-yellow  ;  lower  surface  yellow  ;  wing  blackish-brown  with  a  broad 
band  of  yellow  running  through  it ;  central  tail-feathers  black ;  the 
next  pair  yellow  with  some  black  on  the  inner  webs  ;  the  others  ajl 
yellow  with  a  black  patch  at  their  bases. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

The  tail  is  long  and  very  deeply  graduated. 

Field  Identification. — Purely  arboreal ;  found  in  flocks  which 
attract  attention  by  the  scarlet  and  black  plumage  of  the  males 
and  the  yellow  and  dark  plumage  of  the  females.  Distinguished 
from  the  Scarlet  Minivet  by  the  smaller  size,  by  the  greater  amount 
of  black  in  the  tail,  and  by  the  absence  of  the  scarlet  (in  female  yellow) 
round  spots  on  the  secondaries. 

Distribution. — The  Short-billed  Minivet  has  a  wide  distribution 
through  Northern  India,  Assam,  and  Burma  to  Eastern  China.  It  is 
divided  into  races,  of  which  we  are  concerned  with  two.  The  typical 

1  Some  years  ago  it  was  pointed  out  that  two  distinct  species  were  included 
under  the  name  brevirostris,  but  as  the  question  of  the  correct  name  has  not 
beeri  definitely  decided  it  is  considered  advisable  to  leave  the  scientific  name 
as  it  appeared  in  the  previous  editions. 


THE    SHORT-BILLED    MINIVET  149 

race  breeds  between  about  3000  and  10,000  feet  on  the  Sufed  Koh 
and  all  along  the  Western  Himalayas  from  Gilgit  and  Murree  to 
Nepal,  moving  in  winter,  from  about  November  to  the  end  of  March, 
into  the  plains  of  the  Punjab,  Rajputana,  United  Provinces,  Central 
Provinces,  and  Lower  Bengal.  From  Sikkim  eastwards  to  Assam  and 
Northern  Burma  it  is  replaced  by  P.  b.  affinis,  which  is  a  more  darkly- 
coloured  bird  in  both  sexes. 

The  Rosy  Minivet  (Pericrocotus  roseus)  in  which  the  colours  of 
the  male  are  rose-pink  and  brown  is  found  throughout  the  Lower 
Himalayas,  as  far  west  as  Hazara,  and  also  locally  in  the  Peninsula. 

Habits,  etc. — Except  when  actually  breeding  the  Short-billed 
Minivet  is  an  essentially  gregarious  bird,  living  in  family  parties 
which  join  with  others  to  form  flocks  that  sometimes  number  as 
many  as  thirty  or  forty  individuals.  These  are  strictly  arboreal, 
frequenting  the  tops  of  trees  and  not  descending  even  to  the  under- 
growth. They  are,  however,  by  no  means  shy,  and  feeding  in  the 
trees  or  flitting  one  by  one  across  a  patch  of  open  the  scarlet  and 
black  of  the  males  and  the  yellow  of  the  females  is  so  conspicuous 
and  so  attractive  in  the  sunlight  that  the  Short-billed  Minivet  is  one 
of  the  best-known  birds  of  the  Himalayas  and  Northern  India.  There 
is  something  particularly  cheerful,  too,  about  the  pleasant  call,  a 
Tit-like  chatter,  swit-swit-switi-tatity  or  swisweet-sweet-sweet,  though 
the  bird  has  no  proper  song.  The  food  consists  chiefly  of  insects  and 
their  larvae. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  April  to  July.  The  nest  is  a 
shallow  but  massive  little  cup  of  fine  twigs,  bents  and  roots,  matted 
with  cobwebs,  and  studded  with  lichens  to  resemble  the  twig  on 
which  it  is  placed.  It  is  placed  on  a  bough  of  a  tree  usually  at  a 
great  height  from  the  ground. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  to  four  eggs.  They  are  moderately 
broad  ovals  of  fine  texture  ;  the  ground-colour  is  white  tinged  with 
cream  or  greenish,  and  the  markings  consist  of  blotches  and  spots 
of  brownish-red,  with  secondary  markings  of  grey  and  neutral  tint. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-75  by  0-60  inches. 

THE    LITTLE    MINIVET 

PERICROCOTUS  PEREGRINUS  (Linnseus) 
(Plate  vi,  Fig.  5,  opposite  page  no) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Male :  Entire  upper  surface 
grey  except  the  rump  which  is  flame  -  coloured  ;  wings  blackish- 
brown  with  a  slight  central  patch  of  flame-colour  ;  tail  long  and 
deeply  graduated,  blackish  -  brown,  all  but  the  central  pair  of 
feathers  broadly  tipped  with  flame-colour ;  sides  of  the  head,  chin 

K2 


ISO          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

and  throat  blackish-grey ;  breast  flame-colour,  gradually  paling  into 
the  white  of  the  vent. 

Female :  Paler  throughout ;  the  whole  lower  plumage  is  white 
tinged  with  yellow. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Field  Identification. — Plains  bird ;  common  in  small  parties, 
fluttering  about  trees  ;  small  with  long  tails,  dull  coloured  with  a 
conspicuous  flame-coloured  patch  on  the  rump  and  wing,  and  in 
the  males  also  on  the  breast. 

Distribution. — The  Little  Minivet  is  found  throughout  India, 
Ceylon  and  Burma,  extending  on  the  east  to  Siam  and  Cochin- 
China ;  it  is  divided  into  several  races.  This  species  is  unusually 
susceptible  to  climatic  and  geographical  influences.  In  Sind  and 
the  South-west  Punjab  it  is  a  pale  desert  bird,  P.  p.  pallidus.  On 
the  humid  west  coast  from  North  Kanara  to  Travancore,  P.  p.  mala- 
baricus  (with  a  black  throat  in  the  male)  is  as  richly  coloured  as 
any  tropical  species.  In  Ceylon  an  island  race,  P.  p.  ceylonensis, 
approximates  to  another  richly  coloured  race,  P.  p.  vividus  (with  a 
grey  throat)  in  the  Duars,  Assam,  and  Burma.  Whilst  in  the  greater 
part  of  India  the  typical  form,  itself  strictly  speaking  an  intermediate, 
connects  these  variations,  remaining  unchanged  through  the  immense 
area  of  the  Peninsula  from  the  Cauvery  to  the  Sutlej,  and  on  the 
edges  of  their  ranges  grading  into  them.  A  strictly  resident  species. 

Another  small  species,  the  White-bellied  Minivet  (Pericrocotus 
erythropygius),  is  found  practically  throughout  India,  except  the 
extreme  north-west.  The  male  is  glossy  black  and  white  with  a 
red  rump  and  a  beautiful  rosy  flush  on  the  breast. 

Habits,  etc. — This  Minivet  is  a  plains  bird,  and  only  ascends 
those  lesser  ranges  whose  elevation  and  character  cause  them  scarcely 
to  differ  from  the  plains.  It  is,  like  other  Minivets,  a  purely  arboreal 
species,  frequenting  trees  in  open  but  well-timbered  country,  particu- 
larly in  the  neighbourhood  of  cultivation ;  forests  it  avoids.  Except 
in  the  breeding  season  it  goes  about  in  parties  which  flit  gracefully 
amongst  the  branches,  uttering  a  low,  pleasant  note  and  occasionally 
fluttering  and  hovering  to  reach  those  insects  or  their  eggs  and  larvae 
which  cannot  be  picked  with  ease  from  a  perch  on  the  twigs. 

The  breeding  season  of  this  species  is  very  extended,  lasting, 
according  to  locality,  from  March  to  September,  earlier  in  the  north 
than  in  Central  India  and  the  south.  The  nest  is  a  very  beautiful 
little  structure  which  is  almost  impossible  to  find,  except  by  watching 
the  birds,  owing  to  its  situation,  size  and  character.  It  is  a  tiny 
shallow  cup,  about  two  inches  in  diameter  and  one  inch  in  depth,  and 
is  built  in  a  horizontal  fork  or  on  a  small  bough  of  a  tree  usually  at  a 
considerable  height  from  the  ground.  It  is  composed  of  very  fine 
twigs  or  grass  stems,  with  sometimes  also  a  few  feathers,  carefully 


THE    LITTLE    MINIVET  151 

bound  together  with  cobwebs  and  coated  with  scraps  of  bark,  lichens 
and  dead  leaves,  so  that  viewed  from  the  ground  it  is  virtually  impossible 
to  distinguish  from  an  excrescence  of  the  branch  on  which  it  is  built ; 
the  cavity  is  sometimes  lined  with  fine  down  and  cobwebs. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  three  eggs. 

In  shape  the  egg  is  a  rather  blunt,  broad  oval,  fine  in  texture  and 
without  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  a  pale  delicate  greenish-white  or 
creamy-buff,  and  the  markings  consist  of  brownish-red  specks,  spots 
and  blotches,  always  more  numerous  towards  the  large  end  where 
there  is  a  tendency  to  form  an  irregular  cap. 

They  measure  about  0*67  by  0-53  inches. 


THE  BLACK-HEADED   CUCKOO-SHRIKE 
LALAGE  SYKESI  Strickland 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Male:  Entire  head,  neck,  and 
upper  breast  deep  black  ;  upper  plumage  dark  grey  ;  wings  black, 
the  smaller  coverts  and  inner  flight-feathers  grey  or  margined  with 
grey  and  white ;  tail  black,  the  outer  feathers  broadly  tipped  with 
white,  the  central  pair  entirely  ash-grey;  lower  breast  ashy-grey 
fading  into  the  white  of  the  rest  of  the  lower  plumage. 

Female  :  Upper  plumage  ashy-grey,  most  of  the  feathers  faintly 
barred  with  paler  and  darker  grey  ;  wings  dark  sooty-brown,  the 
smaller  coverts  and  inner  flight-feathers  grey  or  margined  with  grey 
and  white  ;  tail  as  in  male ;  lower  plumage  white,  finely  barred  with 
black  fringes  to  the  feathers  except  towards  the  tail. 

Iris  brownish-red  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

The  feathers  are  very  stiff,  downy  and  loosely  attached,  recalling 
the  plumage  of  Cuckoos  and  Doves.  Tail  graduated. 

Field  Identification. — Male  :  Grey  above,  white  below  with  black 
head  and  neck  and  largely  black  wings  and  tail.  Female  :  Ashy-grey 
with  the  lower  parts  barred  black  and  white.  An  arboreal  species 
found  in  small  parties.  In  the  breeding  season  remarkable  for  the 
whistling  call. 

Distribution. — Confined  Jo  India,  Assam,  and  Ceylon.  Distributed 
very  generally  throughout  India  except  north-west  of  a  line  through 
Kangra,  Sambhar  and  Mount  Aboo.  Occurs  at  all  elevations  up  to 
rarely  7000  feet.  Birds  from  Kangra  have  been  separated  as  L.  s. 
eximia  on  their  darker  colour.  Evidently  a  local  migrant,  but  the 
movements  have  not  yet  been  worked  out. 

Another  species,  the  Large  Cuckoo-Shrike  (Graucalus  javensis), 
length  10  to  12  inches,  is  found  throughout  India,  with  the  exception 
of  the  Punjab  plains,  Sind  and  desert  Rajputana.  The  plumage  is 


152 


POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 


largely  grey  with  more  or  less  grey  barring  on  the  white  lower  parts. 
It  keeps  to  the  tops  of  trees  and  attracts  attention  by  its  loud,  querulous 
and  rather  Parrot-like  cry.  A  rather  larger  bird  is  the  Dark-grey 
Cuckoo- Shrike,  Lalage  melaschista,  found  from  Murree  to  Eastern 
Assam  and  extending  into  the  peninsula.  It  is  a  uniform  dark  grey 
with  black  wings  and  tail,  the  latter  tipped  with  white. 


FIG.  22 — Black-Headed  Cuckoo-Shrike     (jj-  nat.  size) 

Habits,  etc. — The  Black-headed  Cuckoo- Shrike  is  found  in  well-, 
timbered  open  country  rather  than  in  heavy  forest,  and  is  very  partial 
to  large  trees  surrounding  villages  or  the  avenues  of  large  trees  which 
line  so  many  of  the  roads  of  India.  It  also  enters  gardens  and 
orchards  and  feeds  along  hedgerows.  It  never  descends  to  the 
ground.  Except  in  the  breeding  season  this  species  is  usually  found 
in  small  parties  which  fly  from  tree  to  tree,  slowly  and  carefully 
examining  the  foliage  for  the  insects  and  larvae  which  form  its  food. 
The  search  is  continued  from  bough  to  bough  until  the  tree  has  been 
thoroughly  inspected  when  the  flock  flies  off  to  another  tree.  It  is 


THE    BLACK-HEADED    CUCKOO-SHRIKE  153 

usually  a  -silent  bird,  but  during  the  earlier  part  of  the  breeding 
season  the  male  may  frequently  be  heard  repeating  for  minutes 
together  three  loud  and  clear  whistling  notes  in  a  descending  scale. 
Each  time,,  that  he  flies  from  tree  to  tree  the  song  is  repeated.  The 
flight  is  easy  and  somewhat  undulating  and  the  strokes  of  the  wing 
fairly  rapid. 

The  breeding  season  in  the  greater  part  of  the  bird's  range  is 
from  June  to  August,  but  in  the  extreme  south  it  is  said  to  be  somewhat 
earlier,  in  April  and  May. 

The  nest  is  a  very  shallow  rather  broad  cup  of  slight  construction. 
It  is  made  of  thin  twigs  and  roots  arid  the  exterior  is  lightly  covered 
with  spiders'  webs.  The  situation  chosen  is  on  a  branch  of  a  tree, 
either  in  a  fork  or  at  the  junction  of  the  branch  with  the  trunk,  usually 
at  a  height  of  10  to  20  feet  from  the  ground. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  or  three  eggs.  The  egg  is  a  moderately 
broad  oval,  rather  blunt  at  both  ends.  The  shell  is  fine  in  texture 
and  slightly  glossy.  The  ground-colour  is  pale  greenish- white,  thickly 
blotched  and  streaked  throughout  with  rather  pale  brown.  The 
markings  tend  to  be  most  numerous  towards  the  broad  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-85  by  0-65  inches. 


THE    ASHY    SWALLOW-SHRIKE 
ARTAMUS  FUSCUS  Vieillot 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Entire  body  plumage 
dull  ashy,  greyer  on  the  head  and  paler  from  the  breast  downwards, 
a  blackish  mark  in  front  of  the  eye.  Wings  and  tail  deep  blue-grey, 
the  latter  tipped  with  white  ;  the  longer  upper  tail-coverts  white  ; 
the  lower  tail-coverts  whitish,  finely  barred  with  ashy. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  clear  pale  blue,  brownish  at  tip  ;  legs  slate. 

Bill  curved,  conical  and  pointed ;  tail  short  and  square  and  the 
long  wings  when  closed  reach  to  its  end. 

Field  Identification. — Social,  found  in  flocks  ;  a  dull  grey  bird 
that  looks  like  a  large  heavy  Swallow,  soaring  continuously  into  the 
air  from  a  perch  and  incessantly  uttering  a  harsh  cry. 

Distribution. — This  interesting  bird  is  found  in  the  whole  of  India 
east  of  a  line  drawn  from  about  Simla  to  Godra  in  the  Panch  Mahals. 
It  is  a  resident  in  the  plains  and  foot-hills  up  to  about  2000  feet,  and 
in  summer  ascends  the  Himalayas  up  to  about  5000  feet.  It  is  also 
found  in  Ceylon  and  eastwards  through  Burma  towards  Siam  and 
Western  China.  There  are  no  races. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Swallow- Shrike  is  a  gregarious  bird,  breeding 
in  colonies  and  spending  its  time  in  large  flocks  which  feed  and 
rest  together.  It  is  specialised  for  the  purpose  of  feeding  on  the 


154         POPULAR   HANDBOOK   OF  INDIAN   BIRDS 

wing,  and  in  the  air  looks  like  a  large  grey  Swallow,  though  easily 
distinguished  by  the  constantly  uttered  harsh  cry  and  by  the  slow- 
sailing  flight.  The  flocks  settle  in  rows  on  some  lofty  bough  or  the 
top  of  a  tall  bamboo  and  thence  sally  into  the  air  in  pursuit  of 
passing  insects ;  they  fly  round  in  a  wide  circle,  though  seldom  for 
more  than  a  minute  or  two  at  a  time,  and  then  return  to  the  perch 
where  they  huddle  closely  together.  During  the  heat  of  the  day 
they  are  quiescent,  and  they  feed  mostly  in  the  early  mornings  and 
late  evenings,  being  partly  crepuscular  in  their  habits.  They  are 
very  bold  when  breeding,  and  attack  passing  Crows  and  Hawks,  and 
at  times  even  swoop  at  the  climber  who  essays  to  take  their  nest. 
They  never  visit  the  ground. 


FlG,  23— Ashy  Swallow-Shrike    (£  nat.  size) 

The  breeding  season  is  in  April,  May  and  June.    The  nest  is 
usually  placed  on  the  top  of  broken  projecting  stumps  of  branches 
or  occasionally  in  holes;    a  favourite  site  is  in  palm  trees,  on  the 
bases  of  the  leaves  or  the  rough  projections  whence  leaves  have  fallen.  * 
The  site  is  usually  30  to  40  feet  from  the  ground. 

The  nest  is  a  shallow,  loose  cup  of  fine  grass,  roots,  fibres, 
feathers  and  similar  miscellaneous  materials,  with,  as  a  rule,  no 
definite  lining.  The  clutch  consists  of  two  to  four  eggs,  which 
rather  resemble  those  of  the  Shrikes.  In  shape  the  egg  is  a  rather 
narrow  oval,  a  good  deal  pointed  towards  one  end,  fine  in  texture 
and  with  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground-colour  varies  from  white  to 
buffy-cream  colour.  The  markings  which  tend  to  collect  in  a  zone 
round  the  broad  end  consist  of  spots  and  clouds  of  reddish-brown 
and  deep  purple-brown,  with  secondary  markings  of  lavender  and 
purplish-grey. 

In  size  the  eggs  average  about  0-95  by  0*65  inches. 


PLATE  VIII 


i.  Black  Redstart.     2.  Plumbeous  Redstart.     3.  Starling.     4.  White-capped 
Redstart.     5.  Brahminy  Mynah.     (All  about  £  nat.  size.) 

[Face  p.  154 


THE    KING-CROW  155 

THE   KING-CROW 

DlCRURUS  MACROCERCUS  Vieillot 

Description. — Length  13  inches,  including  the  tail  6  inches  long. 
Sexes  alike.  The  whole  plumage  black,  glossed  with  blue ;  a  small 
white  spot  sometimes  present  at  the  base  of  the  bill. 

Iris  red  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

The  tail  is  long  and  deeply  forked,  the  outer  feathers  curling, 
slightly  upwards  at  the  ends. 

Field  Identification. — One  of  the  commonest  birds  throughout 
India,  perching  on  trees  and  telegraph-wires  ;  noisy  and  pugnacious ; 
deep  black  with  a  long,  gracefully-forked  tail. 

Distribution. — The  common  Black  Drongo  or  King-Crow  is  a 
widely-spread  species  occurring  throughout  India  and  Ceylon  and 
eastwards  to  China  and  Java.  In  this  wide  range  it  is  divided  into 
several  sub-species,  based  entirely  on  the  variations  in  size  and 
relative  lengths  of  wings  and  tails,  so  that  individual  specimens  are 
not  easily  identified.  In  India  there  is  a  progressive  diminution  in 
size  as  one  travels  southwards.  The  longest-winged  and  largest- 
tailed  race,  D.  m.  albirictus,  is  found  throughout  northern  India  from 
the  Lower  Himalayas  roughly  to  the  southern  fringe  of  the  Indo- 
Gangetic  plain.  All  birds  south  of  that  area  to  Cape  Comorin  may 
be  treated  as  one  form,  D.  m.  peninsularis,  whilst  the  smallest  race 
from  Ceylon  is  known  as  D.  m.  minor.  A  resident  species  with  some 
local  migrations.  Found  from  sea-level  up  to  about  5000  feet. 

The  much  smaller  and  more  highly  burnished  Bronzed  Drongo 
(Chaptia  tened),  and  the  heavily-built  Hair-crested  Drongo  (Chibia 
hottentottd),  with  an  almost  square  tail  and  a  tuft  of  long  hairs 
springing  from  the  forehead,  share  a  somewhat  similar  distribution 
along  the  Outer  Himalayas,  near  the  eastern  border  of  the  Central 
Provinces  and  in  South-west  India. 

Habits,  etc. — In  the  King-Crow  we  have  another  of  the  most 
familiar  birds  of  India,  attracting  attention  by  its  graceful  shape,  its 
fearlessness  and  pugnacity,  its  abundance,  and  the  wideness  of  its 
distribution.  This  bird  has  no  connection  with  the  family  of  Crows  ; 
it  belongs  to  a  very  highly-specialised  and  distinct  family,  the  Dicruridce, 
which  appears  to  occupy  a  position  between  the  Shrikes  and  the 
Birds  of  Paradise.  The  familiar  name  is  due  partly  to  the  colour  "  as 
black  as  a  Crow  "  and  partly  to  its  pugnacity  and  fearlessness  in  defence 
of  the  nest,  which  leads  it  to  attack  all  predaceous  enemies.  It  is  a 
common  sight  to  see  a  pair  of  these  birds  chasing  a  Crow  through 
the  air,  stooping  at  and  around  it  with  a  mastery  of  flight  and  power, 
like  that  of  a  Falcon,  accompanying  the  performance  with  a  series 
of  angry  calls  that  attract  the  attention  of  the  least  observant ;  verily 


156  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

it  is  King  of  the  Crows,  who,  otherwise,  are  a  match  for  bird  and 
mammal,  even  including  the  arch-mammal  man.  And  if  necessity 
arises  it  does  not  hesitate  to  attack  Eagle,  Falcon  or  Hawk  with  the 
same  courage. 

But  the  King-Crow  is  not  a  mere  bully :  harmless  species  it 
does  not  molest,  and  it  has  long  been  noticed  that  a  tree  containing 
a  King-Crow's  nest  usually  also  contains  the  nest  of  a  Golden 
Oriole,  a  Red  Turtle-Dove,  or  some  other  equally  gentle  bird,  and 


FIG.  24 — King-Crow     (J  nat.  size) 

it  is  difficult  to  resist  the  conclusion  that  these  species  recognise 
the  fact  that  the  presence  of  the  King-Crow's  nest  above  their  heads 
is  a  guarantee  of  protection  from  all  ordinary  marauders. 

The  King-Crow  is  found  in  eveiy  type  of  country,  though  it 
certainly  prefers  the  neighbourhood  of  open  cultivation.  Its  chief 
need  is  a  vantage-point  on  which  to  perch,  swaying  and  flicking  its 
long  tail,  and  watching  ceaselessly  for  every  insect  that  stirs  in  the 
air  or  on  the  ground.  It  seldom  perches  on  buildings,  but  prefers  a 
bare  dead  bough  at  the  summit  of  a  tree  or  a  telegraph-wire.  One 
may  travel  for  days  on  an  Indian  railway  and  the  King-Crows 
dotted  along  the  wires  will  be  one  of  the  unchanging  sights  of  the 


THE    KING-CROW  157 

journey.  And  from  the  chosen  perch  they  are  incessantly  flying 
either  to  capture  an  insect  on  the  wing,  returning  to  eat  it  on  the 
perch,  or  down  to  the  ground  to  settle  there  and  eat  some  more 
sluggish  quarry.  Their  whole  build,  however,  precludes  any 
progression  on  the  ground  or  about  the  branches  of  a  tree  and  their 
movements  are  entirely  aerial.  Herds  of  grazing  cattle  are  generally 
accompanied  by  one  or  more  of  these  birds  which  travel  with  them, 
perching  on  the  back  of  one  of  the  animals  and  hawking  the 
grasshoppers  disturbed  by  the  progress  of  the  herd  through  the 
grass.  The  bird  also  attends  ploughing  operations,  perching  on  small 
bushes  and  clods  of  earth  in  the  vicinity  and  watching  for  larvae 
exposed  in  the  furrows.  At  times  the  King-Crow  is  somewhat  of  a 
pirate,  robbing  Mynahs  and  Hoopoes  as  they  search  industriously  for 
tasty  morsels  on  the  ground.  The  food  consists  entirely  of  insects, 
dragon-flies,  crickets,  grasshoppers,  moths,  bugs,  etc.,  and  their  larvae. 

The  call-notes  are  loud  and  cheerful  though  somewhat  metallic 
in  tone.  The  Punjabi  names  of  Kalcheet  and  Kalkalichi  are 
onomatopoeic  and  fairly  represent  the  more  common  calls,  but  it  is 
impossible  to  represent  the  evident  fury  imported  into  the  bird's 
tones  when  it  is  driving  an  intruder  from  the  vicinity  of  the  nest. 
The  song  is  short  but  not  pleasing. 

While  undoubtedly  in  the  main  a  resident  species,  the  King-Crow 
is  certainly  migratory  to  some  extent ;  but,  as  is  almost  inevitable, 
with  so  abundant  a  species  in  which  a  large  proportion  of  individuals 
are  sedentary,  the  extent  and  meaning  of  these  movements  is  difficult 
to  observe  and  has  not  yet  been  worked  out. 

The  breeding  season  extends  from  April  to  August.  The  nest 
is  a  broad,  shallow  cup  of  tiny  twigs  and  fine  grass  stems  and  roots 
neatly  and  strongly  woven  together  and  exteriorly  bound  round 
with  a  good  deal  of  cobweb  ;  some  nests  are  lined  with  fine  grass, 
horse-hair  or  roots.  The  side  of  the  nest  is  thicker  than  the  bottom 
through  which  the  eggs  are  often  visible  against  the  sky.  It  is  suspended 
in  a  horizontal  fork  of  a  tree,  for  the  most  part  at  a  considerable  height 
from  the  ground  and  a  little  way  in  from  the  extremity  of  the  chosen 
bough.  A  second  clutch  of  eggs  is  often  laid  in  a  nest  that  has  been 
robbed. 

Three  to  five  eggs  are  laid,  but  the  usual  clutch  consists  of 
four.  The  egg  is  a  rather  long  oval,  somewhat  pointed  towards  the 
smaller  end ;  the  shell  is  fine  and  rather  fragile  and  usually  without 
gloss.  The  coloration  is  very  variable.  Some  eggs  are  pure  white 
and  spotless ;  others  are  white  with  fine  black  spots  ;  while  a  third 
type  is  pale  salmon-colour  spotted  with  rich  brownish-red,  blackish- 
and  purplish-brown ;  there  are  infinite  variations  on  these  types, 
but  the  markings  are  never  very  large  or  densely  distributed. 

The  egg  measures  about  1*05  by  0-75  inches. 


158          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

THE    INDIAN    GREY    DRONGO 

DICRURUS  LONGICAUDATUS  Jerdon 

Description. — Length  12  inches,  including  tail  6  inches.  Sexes 
alike.  The  whole  upper  plumage  indigo  with  a  high  gloss ;  the 
lower  plumage  dark  grey  ;  a  blackish  patch  in  front  of  the  eye. 

Iris  red  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Tail  long,  slender  and  widely  forked  at  the  end,  the  outer  feathers 
curling  upwards. 

Field  Identification. — In  the  field  appears  black  with  a  long, 
slender  forked  tail,  and  is  only  distinguished  from  the  King-Crow 
with  difficulty,  by  the  more  slender  build,  unless  close  enough  for 
the  lighter  duller  colour  of  the  under  parts  to  be  recognisable. 

Distribution. — The  Grey  Drongo  is  a  very  widely-spread  species 
in  India,  Burma,  Ceylon,  and  still  farther  east,  and  has  been  divided 
into  a  number  of  races  based  on  differences  of  measurements  and  the 
comparative  darkness  or  lightness  of  the  plumage,  but  several  of 
these  are  probably  unnecessary.  D.  I.  longicaudatus  is  found,  as  a 
summer  visitor  from  March  to  September,  in  the  Himalayas  from 
Hazara  to  somewhere  in  Assam,  being  replaced  in  Lower  Burma  and 
the  Malay  Peninsula  by  D.  L  intermedius.  D.  I.  longicaudatus  is  found 
also  as  a  winter  visitor  throughout  the  greater  part  of  Continental  and 
Peninsular  India,  avoiding  Sind,  Punjab,  Guzerat  and  portions  of 
Rajputana.  It  also  reaches  Ceylon  in  winter. 

The  Grey  Drongo  is  particularly  a  hill  species,  for  the  most  part 
breeding  at  altitudes  between  4000  and  7000  feet,  but  also  lower  and 
up  to  10,000  feet. 

The  White-bellied  Drongo  (Dicrurus  ceerulescens)  is  widely  dis-, 
tributed  and  locally  common  throughout  the  greater  part  of  India, 
except  in  the  Punjab,  Sind,  and  Rajputana.  The  brownish-grey 
throat  and  breast  and  white  belly  distinguish  it  easily  from  all  other 
species,  though  it  must  be  remembered  that  the  young  of  the  King- 
Crow  have  the  lower  abdomen  largely  marked  with  white.  The  song 
of  this  King-Crow  is  almost  meruline  in  character,  and  is  superior 
to  the  songs  of  all  other  species  of  Drongo. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Grey  Drongo  is  typically  a  resident  of  well- 
wooded  hills,  preferring  those  of  more  open  character  to  the 
neighbourhood  of  dense  forest.  It  has  the  same  habits  as  the 
Black  Drongo,  perching  on  high  trees  and  hawking  insects  in  their 
vicinity.  But  as  its  favourite  tree  is  usually  on  the  side  of  some 
afforested  mountain-slope  it  normally  flies  at  greater  heights  from 
the  ground  than  its  Black  cousin,  and  seldom  descends  actually  to 
the  ground.  It  is  a  magnificent  flier,  turning  and  twisting  with 
extreme  speed  and  skill,  and  it  has  the  pugnacity  of  the  family, 


THE   INDIAN    GREY   DRONGO  159 

hunting  larger  birds  from  the  vicinity  of  its  nest  with  great  courage. 
It  is  usually  found  singly  or  in  pairs,  but  the  pairs  do  not  object 
to  the  vicinity  of  others  of  their  own  species,  and  several  birds 
often  collect  together  to  mob  a  common  foe  or  to  work  some 
desirable  feeding  ground.  During  migration  small  parties  travel 
together. 

The  Grey  Drongo  has  much  the  same  range  of  musical  calls  as 
the  Black  Drongo,  some  harsh  and  scolding,  others  sweet  and 
cheerful ;  a  common  call  may  be  given  as  drangh-gip  or  gip-gip- 
drangh.  There  is  a  short  but  pleasant  song,  and  in  addition  the  bird 
is  something  of  a  mimic. 

The  food  consists  entirely  of  insects,  the  majority  of  which  are 
taken  on  the  wing.  A  bird  has  been  seen  to  settle  by  a  bee-hive  and 
deliberately  pick  up  and  eat  the  bees. 

The  breeding  season  is  in  May  and  June. 

The  nest  is  a  strong  shallow  cup,  placed  in  a  horizontal  fork  of  a 
tree  at  any  height  fiom  12  feet  upwards,  and  often  quite  inaccessible. 
It  is  built  of  fine  grass  stems,  slender  twigs  and  roots,  plastered  with 
cobwebs  and  lichens  and  lined  with  finer  grasses  and  hairs.  The 
bottom  of  the  nest  is  usually  thin  enough  for  the  eggs  to  be  visible 
through  it  against  the  sky. 

The  egg  is  a  moderately  broad  oval,  fine  in  texture  and  without 
gloss.  There  are  two  main  types  of  coloration.  The  first  is  pinkish- 
salmon  colour,  streaked,  blotched,  and  clouded  with  reddish-pink  of 
a  darker  shade.  In  the  other  the  ground-colour  is  pale  pinkish-white 
boldly  blotched  and  spotted,  mostly  in  a  zone  round  the  broad  end, 
with  brownish-red  and  faint  inky-purple. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-95  by  0-74  inches. 


THE  LARGE  RACKET-TAILED  DRONGO 
DISSEMURUS  PARADISEUS  (Linnaeus) 

Description. — Length  to  end  of  central  tail-feathers  14  inches  ; 
outer  tail  -  feathers  up  to  13  inches  extra.  Sexes  alike.  Entire 
plumage  black,  glossed  with  blue  except  on  the  inner  webs  of  the 
wing-quills,  throat  and  lower  abdomen ;  some  white  spots  under 
the  wing. 

Iris  crimson  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

An  erect  crest  of  long  hackle-like  plumes  on  the  forehead  falling 
backwards  over  the  nape ;  the  outer  pair  of  tail-feathers  greatly 
elongated,  the  middle  portion  of  the  shaft  webless,  the  terminal  four 
inches  having  the  outer  web  very  narrow  and  the  inner  web  broad 
and  twisted  upwards ;  a  twist  in  the  shaft  reverses  the  apparent 
position  of  these  webs. 


160          POPULAR   HANDBOOK   OF   INDIAN   BIRDS 

Field  Identification. — A  glossy  black  bird,  immediately  identified 
by  the  plumed  crest  and  the  extraordinary  development  of  the  outer 
tail-feathers  into  rackets  on  the  end  of  the  wire-like  shafts. 

Distribution. — Throughout  the  greater  part  of  India,  Burma,  and 
Ceylon  to  Siam  and  the  Malay  Peninsula.  It  has  been  divided  into 

a  number  of  races  differing  in  the  size  and 
quality  of  the  crest  and  tail.  D.  p.  grandis 
breeds  along  the  Himalayas  from  Kumaon 
to  Eastern  Assam  and  through  to  Yunnan, 
from  the  plains  up  to  3000  and  occasionally 
4000  feet ;  it  extends  east  of  a  line 
roughly  from  Kumaon  to  Mount  Aboo 
southwards  to  Sambalpur,  Raipur  and  the 
northern  reaches  of  the  Godavari  River. 
D.  p.  malabaricus,  an  altogether  smaller 
bird,  occupies  the  rest  of  India  south  of 
the  above  range.  In  Ceylon  there  are  two 
races,  both  still  smaller,  one  D.  p.  ceylon- 
ensis  confined  to  the  dry  zone,  and  the 
other  with  different  outer  tail  feathers, 
D.  p.  tophorhinuSy  restricted  to  the  wet 
zone.  It  is  a  resident  species. 

This  species  must  not  be  confused  with 
the  Lesser  Racket-tailed  Drongo  (Bhringa 
remifer)  of  the  Eastern  Himalayas,  Assam 
and  Burma  which  has  the  rackets  fully 
webbed  on  both  sides,  lacks  the  crest  and 
has  the  feathers  of  the  forehead  produced 
in  a  curious  flat  pad  over  the  base  of  the 
beak. 

Habits,  etc. — This  wonderful  Drongo, 
known  familiarly  as  the  Bhimraj,  is  a  forest 
species,     inhabiting     by    preference    the 
FIG.  25 — Large  Racket-tailed  densest  and  dampest  of  the  Indian  forests, 
Drongo    ( \  nat.  size)        though  it  is  also  found  in  any  well-wooded 
country    and    even    comes    into    gardens. 

It  appears  to  have  a  special  partiality  for  bamboo  jungle  and  is  entirely 
arboreal  in  its  habits.  It  is  more  sociable  than  other  Drongos,  often 
going  about  in  parties  of  four  and  five.  These  parties  appear  to  wander 
a  good  deal  in  search  of  food,  flying  from  tree  to  tree,  swooping  at 
insects  on  the  wing  or  capturing  them  from  the  branches.  The  bird 
also  hunts  from  a  fixed  station,  returning  again  and  again  to  the  same 
tree.  Its  food  consists  of  a  variety  of  insects,  wasps,  beetles,  butter- 
flies, locusts  and  their  larvae,  and  it  is  accustomed  to  devour  quantities 
of  bees. 


THE    LARGE    RACKET-TAILED    DRONGO  161 

The  call  is  very  striking,  beginning  with  a  harsh  chuckle  and 
ending  in  a  peculiar  metallic  creaking  cry,  expressed  by  the  syllables 
tse-rung,  tse-rung.  It  has  in  addition  a  number  of  musical  calls  and 
whistles  and  is  justly  celebrated  as  a  very  fine  mimic,  imitating  all 
the  birds  of  the  locality.  It  makes  a  delightful  pet,  fearless  and  most 
amusing  with  its  imitations  of  noises  about  the  house  and  garden. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  March  to  May,  and,  when  nesting, 
the  bird  is  accustomed  to  harry  passing  birds  of  prey.  The  nest 
is  the  usual  cup-cradle  of  the  Drongos,  slung  in  the  fork  of  a  small 
outside  branch  of  a  tree,  usually  at  a  great  height  from  the  ground. 
It  is  composed  of  fine  twigs  and  grass  stems  well  interlaced 
and  firmly  attached  to  the  fork  and  strengthened  with  cobwebs  ; 
the  outside  is  usually  decorated  with  lichen,  moss  and  scraps 
of  bark. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs.  They  are  rather  long 
and  pointed,  fine  in  texture  and  with  little  gloss.  The  ground- 
colour varies  from  white  to  rich  cream,  marked  with  blotches,  spots 
and  specks  of  reddish-brown  or  purple  and  secondary  markings  of 
lavender  and  pale  neutral  tint.  The  markings  tend  to  collect  towards 
the  broad  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  1-15  by  0-83  inches. 


THE  INDIAN  GREAT   REED- WARBLER 
ACROCEPHALUS  STENTOREUS  (Hempr.  and  Ehrn.) 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
olive-brown ;  an  indistinct  fulvous  buff  line  over  the  eye ;  wings 
and  tail  dark  brown,  washed  with  olive-brown ;  chin  and  throat 
creamy-white  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  fulvous  buff,  paler  about 
the  vent. 

In  worn  plumage  the  upper  parts  become  much  greyer  and  the 
lower  parts  whiter. 

Iris  yellow-brown  ;  bill  blackish-brown,  base  of  lower  mandible 
fleshy-livid  ;  legs  steely  plumbeous.  Inside  of  mouth  salmon-red. 

The  tail  is  somewhat  graduated. 

Field  Identification. — One  of  the  largest  of  the  Warblers.  A  dull 
olive-brown  bird  with  fulvous  under  parts,  chiefly  remarkable  in  the 
hand  for  the  rich  salmon-red  mouth.  Normally  found  in  dense 
reed-beds  where  it  is  very  noisy. 

Distribution. — This  species  is  widely  distributed  from  Egypt  and 
Palestine  through  Western  and  Central  Asia  to  India,  Ceylon  and 
Burma.  It  is  divided  into  races.  Indian  birds  belong  to  the  race 
A.  s.  brunnescens  which  also  breeds  in  Transcaspia,  Persia  and 
Turkestan.  In  our  area  it  is  known  to  breed  in  suitable  jheels  in 

L 


i6z  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

Sind,  Baluchistan,  North-west  Frontier  Province,  Kashmir,  the 
Punjab  and  the  United  Provinces,  and  possibly  also  in  Khandesh 
and  Bombay.  It  is  largely  migratory  and  is  found  in  winter  or  on 
passage  throughout  India.  A  smaller  and  more  richly  coloured  race, 
A.  s.  meridionalis,  is  resident  in  Ceylon. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Great  Reed-Warbler  is  normally  a  bird  of  dense 
reed-beds  though  it  may  also  be  found  in  any  other  thick  cover 
over  water,  such  as  the  mangrove  swamps  along  the  tidal  creeks 
of  the  Bombay  and  Sind  coasts.  In  such  places  it  is  more  often 
heard  than  seen.  The  call  and  alarm  note  is  a  harsh  chack  chack, 
while  the  song  is  very  distinctive,  never  forgotten  when  once  heard. 
It  is  very  loud  and  variable,  hard  and  metallic  for  the  most  part,  but 
also  interspersed  with  pleasant  bars.  But  the  essential  burden  of 
the  refrain,  constantly  recurring,  is  the  loud  karra  karra  karreet 
karreet  karreet  or  prit  prit  pritik  which  suddenly  bursts  out  of  a 
reed-bed  with  astonishing  vehemence.  It  is  to  be  heard  everywhere 
in  the  lakes  of  the  Kashmir  Vale  even  amongst  the  house-boats  by 
the  Dal  Darwaza  in  Srinagar.  The  singer  himself  usually  keeps  out 
of  sight,  climbing  about  the  reed  stems  and  the  heaps  of  debris  a 
few  inches  above  the  surface  of  the  water.  Although  such  a  skulker 
the  bird  is  not  particularly  shy  and  allows  a  close  approach,  while  at 
intervals  it  climbs  to  the  tops  of  the  reeds  or  even  into  neighbouring 
trees,  singing  a  few  bars  of  the  song  from  such  a  vantage-point  before 
returning  to  the  shady  depths  of  the  reed-bed.  The  food  consists 
of  the  various  aquatic  larvae  and  insects,  small  snails  and  slugs  and 
aquatic  seeds  to  be  found  in  such  situations. 

On  migration  the  Great  Reed-Warbler  may  be  found  almost 
anywhere,  skulking  in  garden  bushes,  hopping  about  in  the  boughs 
of  trees.  It  is  then  silent,  save  for  the  call-note. 

The  breeding  season,  which  is  of  course  dependent  on  the  growth 
of  reeds,  is  from  late  May  to  August,  most  eggs  being  found  in  June 
and  July. 

The  nest  is  a  very  deep  massive  cup,  which  is  woven  round  the 
stems  of  four  or  five  reeds  usually  at  a  height  of  about  2  feet  above 
the  water.  The  nest  is  built  of  coarse  water  grass,  shreds  of  leaves 
and  bark  of  the  reeds,  the  fibrous  roots  of  water-plants  and  similar 
materials,  and  it  is  lined  with  finer  materials  of  the  same  sort. 

The  clutch  varies  from  three  to  six  eggs,  but  four  is  certainly  the 
normal  number.  The  egg  is  a  moderately  elongated  oval  with  a  fine 
shell  but  no  gloss.  The  ground-colour  varies  from  greenish-  or 
bluish-white  to  creamy  stone-colour.  The  markings  consist  of  very 
fine  stippling  overlaid  with  fairly  bold  and  well-marked  spots  and 
blotches  of  greyish-black,  inky-purple,  olive-brown,  yellowish-olive, 
and  reddish-umber-brown,  with  here  and.  there  pale  underlying 
clouds  of  pale  inky  colour.  The  markings  are  usually  most  dense 


THE    INDIAN    GREAT    REED-WARBLER  163 

towards  the  broad  end,  and  there  is  a  great  deal  of  variation,  not  all 
the  above  markings  and  colours  always  appearing  in  one  specimen. 
The  egg  measures  about  0-90  by  0-60  inches. 


BLYTH'S    REED-WARBLER 

ACROCEPHALUS  DUMETORUM   Blyth 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Sexes  alike.  An  indistinct  fulvous 
streak  over  the  eye  ;  the  remainder  of  the  upper  plumage  and  the 
sides  of  the  face  and  neck  brown  distinctly  tinged  with  olivaceous  ; 
wings  and  tail  brown,  the  feathers  edged  with  olivaceous ;  the  whole 
lower  plumage  pale  buff,  paler  on  the  chin,  throat  and  abdomen. 

Iris  light  brown  ;  bill  brown  above,  flesh-coloured  below ;  gape 
and  mouth  yellow  ;  legs  brown,  soles  yellowish. 

Tail  somewhat  graduated. 

Field  Identification. — A  miniature  edition  of  the  Great  Reed- 
Warbler  with  the  mouth  yellow  instead  of  salmon-red ;  much  less  of 
a  marsh  bird,  being  found  in  any  sort  of  cover  except  in  heavy 
forest. 

Blyth's  Reed- Warbler  is  usually  confused  with  two  other  Warblers 
of  similar  size  and  appearance.  The  differences  from  the  Booted 
Warbler  will  be  found  under  that  species  (p.  164).  The  Paddy- 
Field  Warbler  (Acrocephalus  agricold)  has  the  upper  plumage  russet 
in  tint  instead  of  olivaceous  and  is  normally  found  near  water  in 
reed-beds  or  similar  cover. 

Distribution. — Blyth's  Reed- Warbler  breeds  in  Russia  and  Western 
Siberia  from  Esthonia  to  Irkutsk  and  southwards  to  Northern  Persia 
and  Turkestan.  It  is  a  very  common  passage  migrant  from  August 
•  to  October  and  again  from  March  to  May  through  the  Himalayas 
and  in  the  plains  north-west  of  a  line  from  the  Rann  of  Cutch  to 
Lucknow  and  a  more  or  less  common  winter  visitor  to  the  rest  of 
India  and  Ceylon.  It  also  occurs  in  Assam  and  parts  of  Burma. 

Habits,  etc. — The  observer  in  India  must  not  be  deceived  by  the 
name  of  Blyth's  Reed-Warbler,  for  on  passage  and  in  winter  quarters 
the  neighbourhood  of  water  has  no  special  attraction  for  this  species. 
In  winter  it  is  a  bird  of  thick  cover,  found  in  any  type  of  country 
other  than  thick  forest.  All  that  is  essential  to  it  is  concealment,  and 
whether  this  be  found  in  the  hedgerows  of  village  cultivation  or  the 
scrub  of  the  barren  plains  on  the  Deccan  plateau,  in  the  tamarisk 
of  a  river-bed  in  the  plains  or  the  dense  bracken  thickets  or  water- 
logged patches  of  the  South  Indian  hills,  it  is  content.  It  hops  about 
the  hidden  stems  in  search  of  insects,  solitary  by  habit  though  numeri- 
cally abundant ;  and  the  observer  is  lucky  who  learns  much  more 


164          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

of  it  than  the  single  harsh  note  tschuk  uttered  at  intervals  of  a  few 
seconds,  varied  occasionally  by  chur-w  or  chr-chr. 

On  passage  in  Northern  India  this  Warbler  may  be  found  anywhere, 
in  the  trees  of  shady  gardens  and  orchards,  in  isolated  bushes  on 
barren  hill-sides  and  of  course  in  any  patch  of  thick  cover.  On  spring 
passage  the  song  is  freely  uttered.  It  is  a  vigorous  and  rather  pretty 
song  of  a  rambling  character  and  would  remind  an  English  naturalist 
rather  of  a  Linnet  than  of  the  Reed- Warblers  of  his  own  reed-beds. 

The  food  consists  chiefly  of  insects  and  their  larvae. 

Blyth's  Reed- Warbler  does  not  nest  within  our  limits. 

The  breeding  season  in  the  northern  part  of  its  range  is  about 
June.  The  nest  is  built  both  in  marshy  and  dry  localities — reed-beds 
are  rarely  chosen — in  varied  types  of  undergrowth  and  is  a  deep 
cup  of  bents  and  grasses,  lined  with  hair,  slung  by  the  sides  to  the 
supporting  vegetation. 

The  clutch  usually  consists  of  four  or  five  eggs.  They  are  said 
to  be  very  variable.  The  ground-colour  is  bluish-  or  greenish-white 
or  suffused  brownish-grey,  scantily  but  rather  boldly  spotted  and 
blotched  with  olive-brown  and  ashy-grey. 

The  average  size  is  about  0-7  by  0*5  inches. 


THE    BOOTED    WARBLER 

HIPPOLAIS  CALIGATA  (Lichtenstein) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Sexes  alike.  A  pale  buffy-white 
line  over  the  eye  ;  upper  plumage  brown  with  a  pale  olivaceous 
tinge  ;  wings  and  tail  dark  brown,  the  feathers  edged  with  olive-brown, 
the  outer  tail-feathers  faintly  tipped  and  the  outermost  feather  also 
edged  with  whitish  ;  whole  lower  plumage  very  pale  buff,  the  throat 
and  middle  of  the  abdomen  whitish. 

Iris  brown ;  bill  blackish-brown  above,  yellowish-brown  below ; 
gape  and  mouth  yellow  ;  legs  steely  blue-grey. 

Tail  slightly  graduated. 

Field  Identification. — A  very  indefinitely  coloured  little  Warbler, 
brown  above  and  pale  buffy-white  below  with  a  pale  streak  over 
the  eye.  Usually  found  creeping  about  in  bushes  uttering  a  clicking 
note. 

Distribution. — This  species  is  divided  into  two  forms  which  were 
formerly  ranked  as  two  separate  species.  The  typical  race  (or  Booted 
Warbler  of  literature  generally)  breeds  in  Central  and  Eastern  Russia 
and  Western  Siberia,  occurs  on  passage  (March-May  and  August- 
September)  in  Persia,  Afghanistan,  Baluchistan  and  North-west  India 
and  winters  from  Central  India  to  Ceylon.  It  does  not  occur  east 


THE    BOOTED    WARBLER  165 

of  the  Duars  and  the  Lower  Brahmaputra.  The  other  race  H .  c.  rama 
(or  Sykes'  Tree-Warbler  of  literature)  breeds  in  Persia,  Turkestan, 
Afghanistan,  Baluchistan,  the  Punjab  and  Sind  and  winters  in  India 
and  Ceylon.  It  has  not  been  recorded  east  of  Moghulserai  and 
Assensole. 

In  fresh  autumn  plumage  caligata  is  a  darker  and  more  fulvous 
brown  and  rama  is  more  of  a  uniform  mouse-grey  brown  in  tint, 
but  these  differences  are  soon  obscured  by  wear  and  bleaching  and 
the  two  races  are  most  easily  separated  by  the  length  of  tail  measured 
from  the  base  between  the  two  central  feathers.  This  is  below  50 
millimetres  (z  inches)  in  caligata  and  above  that  figure  in  rama  In 
other  details,  more  particularly  the  bill,  rama  is  correspondingly 
larger.  The  two  forms  cannot  be  separated  in  the  field.  Both  these 
races  require  to  be  distinguished  from  Blyth's  Reed-Warbler  (Aero- 
cephalus  dumetorum).  In  the  first  place,  their  general  coloration  is 
much  greyer.1  In  both  the  minute  first  primary  or  flight-feather  of 
the  wing  is  3-5  to  10  millimetres  longer  than  the  primary  coverts, 
whereas  in  Blyth's  Reed-Warbler  and  the  allied  Paddy-field  Warbler 
(Acrocephalus  agricola)  this  feather  is  usually  shorter  than  or  equal 
to  the  primary  coverts  and  never  exceeds  them  by  more  than  3  milli- 
metres. In  the  Booted  Warbler  the  bristles  that  line  the  base  of  the 
beak  are  small  and  weak  ;  and  finally  the  tail  is  much  less  deeply 
graduated  and  the  white  edge  to  the  outer  tail-feather  is  distinctive. 

Habits,  etc. — In  the  cold  weather  the  Booted  Warbler  is  a  bird 
of  any  kind  of  dry  country  where  bushes  abound,  save  actual  forest. 
It  frequents  gardens,  scrub-jungle  and  babool  trees  in  open  fields 
and  in  such  places  it  will  be  found  skulking  in  the  undergrowth  or 
creeping  about  the  branches  of  the  babool  trees.  In  the  latter  case 
its  movements  are  very  reminiscent  of  those  of  the  Willow-Warblers 
and  like  the  Siberian  Chiff- Chaff  it  often  flies  out  from  the  extremity 
of  a  bough  to  take  insects  on  the  wing.  In  general,  it  is  very 
unobtrusive  and  seldom  shows  itself,  but  a  subdued  chuck  or  chick  or 
chur-r,  incessantly  uttered  at  intervals  of  a  second  or  two,  records  its 
gradual  progress.  Although  solitary  by  nature,  these  Warblers  are 
often  numerically  so  abundant,  especially  on  passage,  that  numbers 
will  be  found  in  suitable  localities. 

The  song  is  said  to  be  sweet  and  powerful  and  uttered  both  by 
night  and  day.  It  is  not  heard,  however,  on  passage  or  in  winter 
quarters  and  is  confined  to  the  breeding  ground.  In  Baluchistan 
this  species  breeds  in  every  orchard  and  garden  of  the  Quetta  Valley 
and  particularly  in  the  thick  rose-hedges  which  surround  the  lucerne 
fields.  In  the  Punjab  and  Sind  it  is  a  bird  of  the  grass-jungles  and 

1  This  species  differs  in  tint  according  to  wear  and  race.  If  I  have 
appeared  inconsistent  in  describing  the  exact  shades  of  brown,  it  is  due  to  that 
fact  and  also  the  necessity  of  emphasising  the  varied  contrasts  of  colour. 

L2 


166          POPULAR   HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

tamarisk-beds  of  the  riverain  tracts.  In  some  areas  it  is  so  numerous 
that  the  breeding  appears  to  be  almost  colonial. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  the  second  half  of  March  to  the 
beginning  of  July.  The  nest  is  a  neat,  compact  little  cup  of  grass, 
bits  of  rotten  bark,  hair,  string  and  other  soft  material,  built  on  a 
framework  of  grass  and  lined  with  fine  grass  stems,  feathers  and 
cotton.  At  Quetta  it  is  usually  placed  in  the  heart  of  a  rose-bush. 
In  the  Punjab  and  Sind  it  is  built  either  in  a  tamarisk  or  in  a  thick 
tuft  of  grass  and  in  the  latter  situation  it  is  usually  a  foot  or  less  from 
the  ground. 

The  clutch  varies  from  three  to  five  eggs.  The  egg  is  a  broad 
blunt  oval,  of  fine  and  close  texture  without  gloss.  There  is  much 
variety,  but  the  ground-colour  is  generally  a  very  pale  grey-white 
tinged  with  greenish  or  pinkish  and  marked  with  spots  and  speckles, 
blotches  and  fine  hair-lines  and  scrawls  of  black,  purple,  red-brown 
or  pinkish-grey. 

In  size  the  egg  measures  about  0-6  by  0-5  inches. 


THE    TAILOR-BIRD 

ORTHOTOMUS  SUTORIUS  (Pennant) 
(Plate  xiii,  Fig.  6,  opposite  page  264) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Sexes  alike.  A  rufous  cap  on 
the  forehead ;  remainder  of  top  and  sides  of  head  ashy-brownish, 
shading  off  into  the  shining  but  sullied  white  of  the  entire  lower 
surface ;  there  is  a  concealed  dark  spot  on  each  side  of  the  neck, 
and  the  thighs  are  rufous  ;  remainder  of  upper  plumage  yellowish- 
green,  the  concealed  parts  of  the  wings  and  tail  brown. 

Iris  reddish-yellow ;  bill  dark  horny,  lower  mandible  pale  flesh 
colour  ;  legs  straw  colour  to  pale  fleshy-red. 

Bill  rather  long  and  sharp ;  in  the  breeding  season  the  male 
acquires  very  long  and  pointed  central  tail-feathers,  two  inches  longer 
than  in  winter. 

Field  Identification. — A  familiar  small  garden  bird  of  the  plains, 
green  above,  white  below  with  a  rufous  cap  ;  carries  the  tail  (which 
is  long  and  pointed  in  summer,  short  and  rounded  in  winter)  erect 
over  the  back  like  a  Wren  ;  has  a  loud,  strident  call. 

Distribution. — In  the  Tailor-bird  we  again  have  a  common  bird, 
of  wide  distribution  from  India  to  China,  which  is  divided  into 
several  races.  The  typical  race,  small,  with  a  large  bill  and  no 
difference  between  the  summer  and  winter  plumage,  is  confined 
to  the  low-country  in  Ceylon,  and  in  the  hill  zone  a  darker  race,  O.  s. 
fernandonis.  The  Indian  race,  O.  s.  guzerata,  is  larger,  and  in  the 
breeding  season  develops  the  long  tail-feathers.  It  is  found  through- 


THE    TAILOR-BIRD  167 

out  the  country  except  in  the  more  extreme  desert  areas,  and  from 
about  Eastern  Bengal  and  the  Duars  it  is  replaced  by  a  more  richly 
coloured  bird,  O.  s.  patia.  The  Indian  form  occurs  in  the  Outer 
Himalayas  up  to  4000  feet,  stragglers  even  ascending  to  7000  feet,  and 
in  the  southern  ranges  it  also  is  found  up  to  4000  feet.  The  Tailor-bird 
is  a  most  strictly  resident  species,  neither  migrating  nor  moving  about 
locally. 

Habits,  etc. — By  name  and  repute  the  Tailor-bird  is  certainly  one 
of  the  best-known  birds  of  India,  yet  the  number  of  people  who  can 
identify  it  by  sight  or  sound  or  give  any  idea  of  its  appearance  is 
probably  very  small  indeed.  Like  many  other  famous  persons,  the 
Tailor-bird  is  insignificant  in  appearance,  a  small,  rather  gawky,  green 
bird,  with  a  pointed  tail  and  a  rufous  crown,  which  climbs  about  in 
undergrowth  and  is  mostly  hidden  from  sight.  It  is  a  bird  of 
gardens  and  even  verandahs,  of  the  outskirts  of  villages,  of  patches 
of  low  evergreen  undergrowth.  Forest  and  bare  desert  areas  are 
alike  abhorrent  to  it.  Where  man  has  settled  and  made  his  home 
there  will  the  Tailor-bird  be  found.  Although  seldom  seen  by  the 
unobservant  it  is  not  shy,  but  with  endless  activity  hops  about  the 
bushes  and  creepers  round  a  house,  investigating  the  flower-pots 
in  the  verandah  and  willingly  feeding  within  a  few  feet  of  people, 
provided  that  they  are  not  moving  about.  And  as  it  goes  it  con- 
stantly utters  the  loud,  discordant,  strident  call,  loud  for  so  small 
a  bird  and  unmistakable  when  known,  which  is  a  familiar  sound  in 
every  garden  though  known  to  few  as  the  note  of  this  species. 
When  the  note  is  uttered  the  throat  swells  and  reveals  the  concealed 
black  spots  on  the  sides  of  the  neck.  The  head  and  tail  are  held 
stiffly  over  the  back  after  the  manner  of  the  English  Wren.  The 
flight  is  very  curious  ;  it  seldom  lasts  for  more  than  a  yard  or  two 
from  cover  to  cover,  and  the  bird  flies  with  obvious  effort,  the  long 
tail  flicking  upwards  over  the  back  in  a  manner  that  can  only  seem 
a  hindrance.  The  food  consists  entirely  of  insects. 

But  all  the  fame  of  the  Tailor-bird  is  of  course  centred  in  its 
nest,  and  with  the  unfairness  of  the  world  it  undoubtedly  receives 
alone  in  popular  estimation  the  credit  as  an  architect  which  should 
be  distributed  amongst  several  species.  For  certain  of  the  Wren- 
Warblers  build  nests  on  exactly  the  same  principles  as  the  Tailor-bird, 
and  in  addition  build  other  beautiful  types  of  nest,  which  it  does  not. 

The  nest  itself  is  a  deep,  soft  cup  of  cotton-wool  and  down,  with 
a  slight  lining  of  a  few  horse-hairs,  and  occasionally  a  few  fine  grass 
stems.  For  it  the  bird  prepares  an  aerial  cradle  by  sewing  two  or 
more  leaves  together,  the  nest  being  placed  within  the  cavity  so 
formed.  There  is  a  good  deal  of  variety  in  the  method  of  sewing 
the  leaves  together  ;  two  large  ones  may  be  joined  down  their  edges, 
several  smaller  leaves  may  be  sewn  together,  or  the  nest  may  be 


168          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

slung  between  two  or  three  leaves  which  are  sewn  to  it  and  not  to 
each  other.  The  sewing  is  done  with  threads  of  cobweb,  silk  from 
cocoons,  wool  or  cottons  ;  the  bird  pierces  a  hole  in  the  leaf  with 
its  sharp  beak  and  draws  the  thread  through,  contriving  in  some 
manner  to  make  a  knot  on  the  outside  sufficient  to  prevent  the 
thread  slipping  back ;  except  that  each  stitch  is  made  separately 
it  would  pass  well  for  the  work  of  human  hands.  It  is  frequently 
stated  that  dead  leaves  are  picked  up  and  sewn  to  the  side  of  the 
nest,  but  this  is  an  error,  and  the  explanation  is  simple.  These 
leaves  were  green  and  fresh  when  the  work  began,  but  they  are 
injured  and  die  from  the  effect  of  the  stitches,  and  curling  in  the 
heat  break  loose  from  their  parent  stem. 

The  nest  is  placed  at  all  elevations,  either  in  low  bushes,  in  the 
hanging  boughs  of  loquat  and  similar  trees,  or  high  up  in  some  lordly 
mango  tree.  The  only  essential  condition  is  a  tough  large  type  of 
leaf ;  but  most  nests  will  be  found  within  6  feet  of  the  ground. 

The  principal  breeding  season  is  in  May,  June,  and  July,  but 
occasional  nests  may  be  found  in  other  months.  The  bird  is  very 
suspicious  of  interference,  and  readily  deserts  a  half-built  nest  which 
has  been  found  and  looked  at. 

Three  to  six  eggs  may  be  found,  but  the  normal  clutch  is  certainly 
three  or  four.  They  are  rather  long  and  pointed  in  shape,  very  thin 
and  delicate,  and  with  but  little  gloss.  They  fall  into  two  types  of 
coloration,  with  the  ground-colour  either  reddish- white  or  pale  bluish- 
green  ;  the  former  is  more  common.  The  markings  consist  of  bold 
blotches  or  sometimes  ill-defined  clouds,  mixed  with  speckles,  spots, 
and  dashes  of  red,  reddish-brown,  brown,  black,  or  purplish-black. 
These  are  seldom  dense  in  character  and  there  is  a  tendency  for  the 
larger  markings  to  collect  towards  the  broad  end  of  the  egg. 

The  eggs  measure  about  0-64  by  0-46  inches. 


THE    FANTAIL-WARBLER 

CISTICOLA  JUNCIDIS  (Rafinesque) 

Description. — Length  4  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Winter  plumage  : 
The  whole  upper  plumage,  including  the  wings,  dark  blackish-brown, 
the  feathers  broadly  edged  with  fulvous  ;  rump  plain  rufous  ;  a  broad 
eyebrow,  the  sides  of  the  face,  except  for  the  brownish  ear-coverts, 
and  the  whole  lower  plumage  buffy-white,  becoming  buff  on  the 
breast  and  flanks  ;  tail  dark  brown,  central  feathers  edged  with  fulvous 
and  remainder  with  white  tips  and  a  black  subterminal  bar. 

The  male  in  summer  has  the  top  of  the  head  and  heck  plain  brown 
and  the  tail  a  quarter  of  an  inch  shorter  with  rufous  patches  above 
the  black  bar. 


THE    FANTAIL-WARBLER  i6g 

Iris  yellow-brown  ;  bill  fleshy,  darker  along  the  top  ;  legs  fleshy. 

The  tail  is  rounded  and  expands  into  a  perfect  fan. 

Field  Identification. — Plains  species  ;  a  minute,  streaked  black 
and  brown  bird,  with  pale  under  parts,  found  in  thick  herbage  ; 
skulks  until  disturbed,  then  has  a  curious  mounting  flight  in  the 
air,  accompanied  by  a  loud  clicking  note. 

Distribution. — The  Fantail- Warbler  has  an  immense  range  in 
Southern  Europe,  Africa,  and  Asia,  and  is  divided  into  several  races. 
Of  these,  C.  j.  cursitans  occurs  throughout  practically  the  whole  of 
India  from  the  North-west  Frontier  Province  and  Sind,  but  not 
Baluchistan,  to  Assam,  Burma,  Siam,  and  Yunnan.  It  occurs  here 


FIG.  26 — Fantail-Warbler     (•§-  nat.  size) 

and  there  in  the  various  hill  ranges  up  to  about  6000  feet,  but  is, 
properly  speaking,  a  plains  bird.  In  the  main  resident,  it  is  also  locally 
migratory.  A  darker  bird,  C.  j.  salimalii,  is  resident  in  Travancore, 
and  replaced  in  Ceylon  by  the  larger-billed  C.  j.  omalura. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Fantail-Warbler  is  typically  a  bird  of  low,  thick 
cover  in  wide  open  spaces,  and  it  is  found  therefore  in  stretches  of 
grassland,  in  patches  of  reeds  and  tamarisk  thickets,  or  the  raised 
grassy  bunds  of  rice  cultivation.  In  such  cover  it  skulks  and  is 
very  retiring,  seldom  climbing  above  the  stems,  and  would  not  come 
to  notice  save  for  its  curious  habits  of  flight.  When  disturbed 
the  bird  jerks  itself  high  into  the  air,  and  after  flying  some  distance 
falls  headlong  again  into  cover.  During  the  breeding  season  the 
male  soars  in  the  air  in  a  most  erratic  fashion,  rising  and  falling  in 
jerks  but  keeping  roughly  above  the  area  of  which  the  centre  is  the 
nest  site,  and  towards  this  he  falls  very  quickly  at  intervals  as  if 
intending  to  settle ;  just,  however,  as  he  nears  the  ground  he  shoots 
up  into  the  air  again  and  resumes  his  soaring  jerks.  All  the  time 
he  utters  a  creaking,  clicking  note  which  rises  to  its  climax  as  each 
aerial  jerk  reaches  its  highest  point,  coinciding  with  it.  When  feeding 


170          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

young  the  parent  approaches  the  nest  in  somewhat  similar  fashion, 
flying  well  up  in  the  air  though  not  to  the  height  of  the  male's 
display ;  as  it  comes  it  utters  a  note  which  is  softer  and  more  level 
in  tone  than  the  display  song,  but  the  whole  approach  rather  resembles 
the  above  display  and  may  easily  be  mistaken  for  it.  The  young  in 
the  nest  when  disturbed  utter  a  menacing,  hissing  note. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  April  to  October,  but  is  connected 
with  the  rains,  the  birds  never  breeding  when  the  weather  is  dry. 

The  nest  is  built  in  a  tuft  of  green  grass  near  to  the  ground,  and 
is  a  very  delicate  and  beautiful  affair,  being  composed  of  white  cobwebs 
with  a  lining  of  vegetable-down,  the  green  blades  of  growing  grass 
being  incorporated  in  the  sides  of  the  structure.  In  shape  it  may 
be  oval  with  the  entrance  near  the  top,  a  long  deep  purse  narrowing 
towards  the  top,  or  a  cup  with  a  canopy  woven  over  it. 

The  clutch  varies  from  three  to  seven  eggs,  but  five  is  the  usual 
number. 

The  eggs  are  rather  short  ovals  in  shape,  fine  and  delicate  in 
texture  with  a  fair  amount  of  gloss.  They  are  pure  white,  faintly 
tinged  with  blue,  or  even  very  occasionally  a  definite  pale  blue,  finely 
spotted  and  speckled  with  reddish-brown ;  there  is  a  tendency  for 
these  markings  to  collect  into  a  cap  or  zone. 

In  size  the  egg  averages  about  0-59  by  0-46  inches. 


THE   RUFOUS-FRONTED   WREN-WARBLER 
FRANKLINIA  BUCHANANI  (Blyth) 

(Plate  xii,  Fig.  i,  opposite  page  242) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
including  the  wings  reddish-brown,  brighter  on  the  head  ;  a  mark 
over  the  eye  and  the  whole  lower  plumage  white,  sullied  with  fulvous 
on  the  sides  of  the  head  and  towards  the  tail.  Tail  brown,  rather 
long  and  graduated,  all  except  the  central  pair  of  feathers  tipped  with 
white  preceded  by  a  dark  spot. 

In  winter  the  tail  is  half  an  inch  longer. 

Iris  reddish-yellow  ;  bill  brown,  lower  mandible  pale  fleshy  ;  legs 
pale  fleshy-brown. 

The  Wren- Warblers  of  the  genus  Franklinia  have  twelve  tail- 
feathers,  which  readily  distinguishes  them  from  the  genus  Prinia 
with  ten  tail-feathers. 

Field  Identification. — A  small  plains  bird  found  in  scrubby  bushes 
in  open  arid  country  ;  brown  above  with  a  reddish  crown  and  whitish 
below,  a  long  full  tail  edged  with  white.  Wren-Warblers  of  the  genus 


THE    RUFOUS-FRONTED    WREN-WARBLER          171 

Franklinia  are  found  in  parties,  while  those  of  the  genus  Prinia  are 
found  usually  singly  or  in  pairs. 

Distribution. — A  purely  Indian  form.  It  occurs  in  the  plains  of 
the  whole  of  the  north-west  corner  of  India,  from  the  North-west 
Frontier  Province  and  the  Upper  Punjab  through  the  United 
Provinces,  Sind,  and  Rajputana  down  to  the  Central  Provinces, 
the  Deccan,  and  Western  Bengal  and  Behar  as  far  as  Ranchi  and 
Hazaribagh.  A  purely  resident  species. 

Habits,  etc. — This  quaint  little  bird  avoids  damp  and  well- 
timbered  localities,  and  is  by  preference  a  bird  of  semi-desert 
localities.  It  is  in  its  element  in  the  bare  sandy  plains  of  the 
Lower  Punjab,  Sind,  and  Rajputana,  where  the  most  conspicuous 
vegetation  is  the  wild  caper,  whose  tight  thorny  bushes  rise  in  little 
mounds  all  over  miles  of  open  country.  Here  this  Warbler  is 
abundant,  and  one  of  the  most  noticeable  birds,  living  in  energetic 
little  troops  which  are  always  on  the  move,  creeping  in  and  out  of 
the  bushes  and  running  like  mice  on  the  ground  at  their  base. 
It  is  also  addicted  to  dry,  stony  hills  with  low  bush-jungle,  and 
ventures  into  the  lighter  crops  such  as  cotton  and  mustard. 
During  the  breeding  season  its  very  cheerful  little  song  is  a 
marked  feature  of  the  plains  that  it  inhabits. 

The  breeding  season  extends  from  March  to  September,  and 
probably  two  broods  are  reared. 

The  nest  is  usually  an  oval  domed  structure,  with  the  entrance 
near  the  top  at  one  side.  It  is  built  of  fine  grass  stems  and  tow-like 
vegetable  fibres,  and  the  egg  cavity  is  softly  lined  with  vegetable- 
down  and  a  felt-like  substance  formed  of  dry  portions  of  the  ber 
bush.  A  few  nests  are  cup-shaped  or  purse-like  and  suspended. 
The  site  chosen  is  generally  very  close  to  the  ground,  a  matter  of 
inches,  but  it  may  be  occasionally  3  or  4  feet  above  it.  It  is  built 
in  bushes,  a  favourite  situation  being  either  a  low  close  caper  bush, 
or  in  a  heap  of  dead  thorn  loppings  overgrown  with  grass.  The 
clutch  varies  from  three  to  six  eggs,  but  the  usual  number  is  five. 

The  egg  is  a  moderately  broad  oval,  the  shell  very  delicate  and 
fine  with  a  fair  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  white,  slightly  tinged 
with  greyish  or  greenish  ;  it  is  thickly  and  finely  speckled  all  over 
with  somewhat  dingy-  or  purplish-red,  and  there  is  a  slight  tendency 
for  the  markings  to  collect  towards  the  broad  end. 

The  average  measurement  is  0-62  by  0-48  inches. 


172  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

FRANKLIN'S  WREN-WARBLER 

FRANKLINIA  GRACILIS  (Franklin) 

Description. — Length  4  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Summer  plumage  : 
Upper  plumage  dark  ashy-grey,  the  wings  and  tail  washed  with 
brown ;  lower  plumage  white,  a  broad  ashy  band  across  the  breast 
and  the  flanks  washed  with  ashy. 

Winter  plumage  :  An  indistinct  white  streak  over  the  eye  ;  upper 
plumage  brown,  the  wings  and  upper  tail-coverts  washed  with 
chestnut-brown,  the  tail  washed  with  grey ;  whole  lower  plumage 
white,  washed  with  grey  and  fulvous.  In  winter  plumage  the  tail  is 
half  an  inch  longer  and  the  indistinct  spots  towards  the  ends  of  the 
tail-feathers  are  more  pronounced. 

Iris  brownish-yellow  ;  eye-rims  orange  ;  bill  dark  brownish-black  ; 
legs  yellowish-orange,  claws  dark  horny. 

Tail  sharply  graduated,  of  twelve  feathers. 

Field  Identification. — A  small  bird  with  a  longish  tail  found  in 
parties  in  low  open  scrub.  Summer  plumage  ashy-grey  above,  white 
below  with  a  broad  ashy  band  across  the  breast.  Winter  plumage 
warm  brown  above,  sullied  white  below  with  no  breast  band,  the 
two  plumages  so  different  that  they  would  never  be  taken  for  the 
same  bird. 

Distribution. — Ceylon,  India,  Assam,  Burma  to  Tenasserim,  Siam, 
Annam,  and  Laos.  Found  throughout  India  except  the  Punjab 
Plains,  North-west  Frontier  Province,  Sind,  and  desert  Rajputana. 
Occurs  up  to  about  4000  feet,  both  in  the  Himalayas  and  in  the 
ranges  of  the  Peninsula.  A  strictly  resident  species  with  the  following ' 
races  : — 

The  typical  race  has  sharply  defined  summer  and  winter  plumages 
as  already  described.  It  is  found  in  Rajputana,  the  United  and  Central 
Provinces,  the  Bombay  Presidency  and  in  North  Hyderabad  as  well 
as  in  Arakan.  F.  g.  hodgsoni  is  found  along  the  Outer  Himalayas 
from  Murree  and  Kashmir  to  the  Duars,  in  Assam  and  in  the  Kachin 
Hills  in  Burma.  This  race  has  a  more  rusty  tint  in  winter  plumage. 
F.  g.  albogularis  of  South  India  has  the  upper  parts  darker  in  summer 
plumage  and  is  whiter  on  the  lower  parts  in  winter  plumage.  F.  g. 
pectoralis  in  Ceylon  is  also  a  dark  bird  but  is  more  remarkable  for  having 
summer  and  winter  plumage  alike,  both  of  the  summer  type.  In  this 
it  agrees  with  the  three  species  of  Wren- Warblers  of  the  genus  Prinia 
found  in  Ceylon. 

Habits,  etc. — Franklin's  Wren-Warbler  is  a  bird  of  all  the  more  open 
types  of  country.  By  preference  it  is  found  in  open  scrub-jungle 
where  low  bushes  grow  amidst  coarse  grass  and  scattered  small  trees, 


FRANKLIN'S    WREN-WARBLER  173 

but  it  is  also  met  with  in  hedgerows,  fairly  light  forest,  in  cultivation 
broken  by  patches  of  cover  and  even  in  reed-beds  and  mangrove 
swamps.  In  such  localities  it  is  met  with  in  small  parties  which 
lead  a  life  of  great  activity,  hunting  incessantly  for  insects  in  the 
grass  and  bushes  or  running  on  the  ground  at  their  base.  It  seldom 
ventures  into  trees  at  any  height  above  the  ground.  It  is  a  very 
poor  flier,  proceeding  by  curious  little  jerky  flights,  the  tail  jerking 
awkwardly  as  it  goes.  There  is  a  feeble  little  twittering  song. 

The  main  breeding  season  is  in  the  rains  from  July  to  September, 
but  in  the  hills  the  birds  are  said  to  breed  earlier  from  about  April 
to  June. 

The  nest  is  a  small  cup  of  fine  dry  grass  and  vegetable  fibres, 
felted  here  and  there  on  the  outside  with  small  lumps  of  woolly 
vegetable-down.  It  is  carefully  sewn  with  cobwebs,  silk  from 
cocoons  or  wool  into  one  or  two  leaves  which  often  completely 
envelop  it,  leaving  no  part  visible.  It  thus  closely  resembles  the 
nest  of  the  Tailor-bird,  but  as  compared  with  that  species  the 
situation  chosen  is  normally  closer  to  the  ground  at  a  height  of  2 
or  3  feet,  and  more  nests  are  sewn  to  a  single  leaf  only. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs,  the  latter  being  usual. 
The  eggs  vary  considerably.  They  are  typically  rather  slender  ovals, 
a  good  deal  compressed  towards  one  end  ;  the  shell  is  exquisitely 
fine  and  glossy.  The  colour  varies  from  pure  white  or  pure  bright 
blue,  unspotted,  to  almost  any  shade  of  pinky-white,  pale  grey-green 
or  greenish-blue,  speckled  all  over  or  in  a  zone  or  cap  at  the  broader 
end  with  reddish-brown. 

The  egg  measures  about  0*58  by  0-42  inches. 


THE  LESSER  WHITETHROAT 

SYLVIA  CURRUCA  (Linnaeus) 
(Plate  xii,  Fig.  2,  opposite  page  242) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
earthy-brown,  the  whole  top  of  the  head  contrasting  brownish-grey ; 
a  broad  band  through  the  eye  dark  brown  ;  wings  dark  brown,  edged 
paler ;  tail  dark  brown,  a  large  portion  of  the  outer  feathers  white ; 
the  whole  lower  plumage  greyish-white. 

Iris  yellow-brown ;  bill  dusky,  lower  base  slaty  horn ;  legs 
plumbeous. 

Field  Identification. — Brown  above,  dirty  white  below,  with  a 
darkish  cap  and  a  white  edge  to  the  tail ;  a  very  quiet,  shy  bird,  which 
creeps  about  in  trees  and  is  particularly  .partial  to  acacias. 


174          POPULAR   HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN   BIRDS 

Distribution. — The  Lesser  Whitethroat  is  a  widely-distributed 
breeding  species  in  Europe  and  Northern  Asia,  migrating  southwards 
to  Africa  and  Southern  Asia  in  winter.  There  arc  several  races,  of 
which  we  are  concerned  with  two.  S.  c.  blythi  differs  from  the  typical 
European  form  in  having  the  second  primary  always  shorter  than 
the  sixth,  usually  between  it  and  the  seventh  in  length.  It  breeds 
in  Siberia  and  Manchuria,  and  is  a  very  abundant  winter  visitor  to 
the  plains  of  India,  extending  on  the  south  to  Ceylon,  and  on  the 
east  to  Behar  and  Western  Bengal.  S.  c.  minula  differs  from  S.  c. 
blythi  in  its  smaller  size  and  considerably  paler  upper  parts.  It  breeds 
in  Transcaspia  and  Eastern  Turkestan,  and  in  winter  appears  in 
North-western  India  in  the  North-west  Frontier  Province,  Punjab, 
Sind,  and  Rajputana.  Both  races,  therefore,  are  to  be  found  on  the 
same  ground  in  North-western  India,  and  the  identification  of  some 
individuals  is  a  matter  of  difficulty.  Both  races  commence  to  arrive 
about  September  and  leave  about  April,  though  blythi  stays  a  little 
later  than  minula.  The  typical  race  does  not  occur  in  India.  A 
darker  allied  species  with  a  larger  bill,  Hume's  Whitethroat  (Sylvia 
althcea),  which  breeds  in  Kashmir  and  winters  in  Southern  India,  is 
easily  confused  with  these  two  races. 

The  Orphean  Warbler  (Sylvia  hortensis)  is  a  winter  visitor  to 
the  greater  part  of  India  except  the  extreme  north-east.  It  breeds 
in  Baluchistan  and  the  North-west  Frontier  Province.  Of  the  habits 
and  general  appearance  of  the  Whitethroats  it  is  larger  with  a  marked 
cap,  grey  in  females  and  black  in  males. 

Habits,  etc.— Both  the  races  of  Lesser  Whitethroat  that  arrive  in 
India  are  very  similar  in  their  habits  in  winter;  they  spend  their 
time  creeping  about  in  small  bushes  and  trees  looking  for  insects 
and  caterpillars,  and  are  very  silent  except  for  an  occasional  tack 
note.  While  blythi,  however,  living  in  any  type  of  country  except 
deep  forest,  prefers  trees,  and  more  especially  the  various  species  of 
acacia,  with  whose  pollen  its  head  is  often  stained  yellow,  minula 
is  usually  found  in  the  low-stunted  bushes  and  scanty  tree  growth 
of  semi-desert  country. 

The  breeding  habits  of  both  races  are  very  similar  in  their  respective 
ranges,  where  they  lay  about  May  and  June.  The  nests  are  neat  but 
rather  fragile  cups  of  grass  and  roots,  lined  with  horse-hair  or  fine 
grass  stems  ;  they  are  built  in  bushes  within  a  few  feet  of  the  ground. 

The  clutch  consists  of  four  to  six  eggs ;  these  are  rather  broad 
ovals,  creamy-white  in  colour,  rather  boldly  but  sparingly  marked 
with  sepia-brown  and  grey. 

They  measure  about  O'66  by  0-5  inches. 


THE    CHIFFCHAFF  175 

THE    CHIFFCHAFF 

PHYLLOSCOPUS  COLLYBITA  (Vieillot) 

(Plate  xii,  Fig.  3,  opposite  page  242) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
brown,  faintly  tinged  with  green  ;  a  distinct  buff  line  over  the  eye, 
with  a  darker  line  through  the  eye  ;  wings  and  tail  dark  brown,  finely 
edged  with  olive-yellow  ;  lower  plumage  buff,  darker  on  the  breast 
and  flanks  ;  wing-lining  primrose-yellow. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  dusky  brown  ;  legs  brownish-black. 

Field  Identification. — A  very  small  brown  bird,  with  pale  buff  under 
parts  and  a  buff  line  over  the  eye,  which  creeps  about  in  trees  and  in 
herbage  near  water,  often  in  small  parties,  uttering  a  plaintive  note. 

Distribution. — The  Chiffchaff  is  very  widely  distributed  throughout 
Europe,  Africa,  and  Asia  in  a  number  of  races.  The  typical  form  does 
not  occur  in  our  area,  but  two  others  are  found  as  winter  visitors. 
P.  c.  sindianus  breeds  in  Kashmir  territories  and  Central  Asia  and  is  a 
somewhat  local  winter  visitor  to  the  North-west  Frontier  Province, 
Punjab,  Sind,  United  Provinces,  and  Rajputana.  The  Siberian  Chiff- 
chaff,  P.  c.  tristis,  which  breeds  in  Northern  Asia,  is  found  from  about 
September  to  the  end  of  April  in  India,  over  the  whole  of  the  northern 
and  central  plains  as  far  south  as  Bombay  and  Orissa,  often  in  great 
numbers.  In  freshly  moulted  plumage  it  can  be  distinguished  from 
P.  c.  sindianus  by  the  tinge  of  green  in  the  upper  plumage,  and  from 
the  typical  English  Chiffchaff  by  the  absence  of  yellow  in  the  lower 
plumage. 

Habits,  etc. — There  are  in  the  Indian  Empire  about  thirty  forms 
of  the  genus  Phylloscopus,  which  includes  the  well-known  English 
Chiffchaff  and  Willow- Wren.  Their  distribution  is  very  variable,  but 
as  far  as  India  is  concerned,  it  may  be  stated  that  none  breed  any- 
where in  the  country  except  in  the  Himalayas  and  on  the  higher 
ranges  on  the  frontiers  of  Afghanistan  and  Baluchistan,  and  there  is 
no  part  of  India  where  several  forms  may  not  be  met  with  either  as 
passage  migrants  or  as  winter  visitors.  Their  identification  is  a 
matter  of  great  difficulty,  based  on  minor  points  of  size  and  wing 
formula  and  slight  differences  of  plumage,  which  in  practically  every 
case  ring  the  changes  on  greens,  browns,  and  yellows  ;  though  in 
the  field  this  is  assisted  by  slight  differences  in  habits  and  voice. 

The  Siberian  Chiffchaff  is  a  very  common  winter  visitor  to 
Northern  India  wherever  trees  in  leaf  or  cultivation  exist.  It  is 
met  with  both  singly  and  in  small  parties,  which  search  for  insects 
up  in  the  trees,  in  hedges,  or  in  various  crops,  and  it  often  flies  out 
from  the  extremity  of  a  bough  to  take  an  insect  on  the  wing.  It  is 


176  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

particularly  fond  of  cotton  fields,  lucerne,  tamarisk,  and  acacias,  and 
it  has  a  characteristic  habit,  seldom  shared  by  others  of  the  genus,  of 
hunting  in  reed-beds  and  other  vegetation  low  over  water.  The  call- 
note  is  a  very  plaintive  tweet.  Passage  migrants  in  March  on  their 
way  north  freely  sing  a  typical  song,  chiff-chaff,  chiff-chaff,  like  that 
so  well  known  in  England. 

P.  c.  sindianus  breeds  in  Gilgit,  Baltistan,  Ladakh  and  Lahul  from 
May  to  July. 

The  nest  is  a  large  structure  of  dry  grass  and  bents,  domed  with 
the  entrance  at  one  side  ;  it  is  profusely  lined  with  feathers  on  a  layer 
of  fine  vegetable-down.  The  situation  chosen  is  on  or  close  to  the 
ground  in  herbage,  low  bushes  or  thorny  hedges. 

The  usual  clutch  consists  of  four  eggs.  They  are  rather  broad 
ovals,  very  fragile  with  a  slight  gloss  ;  the  colour  is  white,  spotted 
with  chestnut-red,  chiefly  towards  the  broad  end. 

The  average  size  is  0-65  by  0-48  inches. 


THE  YELLOW-BROWED  WARBLER 
PHYLLOSCOPUS  INORNATUS  (Blyth) 

Description. — Length  4  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
dull  olive-green,  with  obscure  traces  of  a  pale  streak  down  the  crown  ; 
a  broad  buffy-white  line  over  the  eye  ;  sides  of  the  face  mottled  with 
buffy-white  ;  wings  and  tail  dark  brown  edged  with  greenish,  two 
buffy-white  wing-bars,  the  upper  rather  obscure  ;  entire  lower  plumage 
sullied  white. 

Iris  dark  brown ;  bill  dark  brown,  base  of  lower  mandible 
yellowish  ;  legs  greyish-brown. 

Field  Identification. — This  is  another  of  the  minute  green  or 
brown  birds  which  hunt  for  insects  in  the  foliage  of  trees,  and  are 
only  to  be  discriminated  with  much  practice  and  knowledge  both  in 
the  field  and  in  the  cabinet.  The  greenish  colour,  dirty  white  below, 
the  double  wing-bar  and  the  call-note  tiss-yip  are  guides  to  the  identity 
of  this  particular  species. 

Distribution. — Breeds  throughout  a  large  portion  of  Siberia  and 
Central  Asia,  migrating  southwards  in  winter.  It  is  divided  into 
three  races.  The  typical  form  breeds  in  Siberia,  migrates  through 
the  greater  part  of  Asia  and  winters  in  Bengal,  Assam,  Burma,  and 
eastwards  to  Southern  China.  P.  i.  humii,  differing  in  the  brighter 
olive-green  of  the  upper  parts,  breeds  in  the  Western  Himalayas 
between  7000  and  12,000  feet,  and  in  Turkestan,  Tian-Shan,  and 
Afghanistan.  Starting  at  the  end  of  August  it  spreads  in  winter 
through  India  southwards  to  Travancore  and  eastwards  to  Bengal 


PLATE   IX 


i.  Bay-backed  Shrike.  2.  Paradise  Flycatcher.  3.  Common  Wood-Shrike. 
4.  Blue-headed  Rock-Thrush.  5.  Brown  Dipper.  6.  Bluethroat.  (All 
about  ^  nat.  size.) 

[Face  p.  176 


THE    YELLOW-BROWED    WARBLER  177 

and  Orissa,  but  curiously  enough  avoids  Sind.  The  return  migration 
takes  place  about  April.  P.  i.  mandelii,  which  breeds  in  Kansu  and 
Szechwan  and  is  found  in  Bengal  and  Lower  Assam  in  winter,  has 
the  head  darker  than  in  the  other  races. 

Habits,  etc. — In  India  the  Yellow-browed  Warbler  is  always 
solitary  and  spends  its  time  in  the  boughs  of  trees  searching  for 
insects  and  uttering  as  it  goes  a  note  which  is  best  described  by  the 
syllables  te-we-ut  or  tiss-yip,  rather  sibilant  and  plaintive.  In  the 
breeding  season  the  only  song  is  a  loud,  double  chirp  uttered  by  the 
male,  really  only  an  elaboration  of  the  above  note. 

It  has  a  trick  of  nervously  flirting  its  wings  as  it  feeds  and  moves 
about  the  boughs.  This  species  in  winter  seldom  comes  down  low 
near  the  ground,  nor  is  it  found  in  bushes  by  water  like  the  Siberian 
Chiffchaff. 

The  breeding  season  in  the  Western  Himalayas  is  in  May  and 
June.  The  nest  is  built  on  the  ground  on  some  sloping  bank  or 
ravine-side,  either  in  open  ground  or  at  the  edge  of  forest.  It  is  a 
rather  large  globular  structure,  with  the  entrance  at  one  side.  The 
materials  consist  of  rather  coarse  grass,  with  an  inner  lining  of  fine 
grass  roots  or  hair  ;  feathers  are  not  used. 

,  Three  to  five  eggs  are  laid,  but  the  usual  clutch  is  four.  The 
egg  is  a  broad  oval  slightly  compressed  towards  one  end,  fine  in 
texture  with  very  little  gloss.  In  colour  it  is  pure  white,  speckled 
and  spotted  with  reddish-brown  or  purple,  the  markings  tending  to 
form  a  cap  or  zone  round  the  broad  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-56  by  0*44  inches. 


THE  GREENISH  WILLOW-WREN 
PHYLLOSCOPUS  TROCHILOIDES  Sundevall 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
dull  olive-green,  the  concealed  portions  of  the  wings  and  tail  dark 
brown  ;  a  pale  yellow  bar  across  the  greater  wing-coverts  ;  a  broad 
pale  yellow  streak  above  the  eye  with  a  darker  line  below  it ;  lower 
plumage  dull  white  washed  with  primrose-yellow. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  brown,  lower  mandible  horny  yellow  ;  legs 
greyish-brown. 

Field  Identification. — Olive-green  above,  yellowish-white  below, 
with  one  pale  wing-bar,  and  a  pale  eye-streak ;  a  quiet,  un- 
demonstrative species  creeping  about  in  the  foliage  of  trees. 

Distribution. — Breeds  from  Eastern  Europe  to  Eastern  Siberia 
southwards  to  Persia  and  the  Himalayas  being  divided  into  several 
races  of  which  the  following  concern  us.  P.  t.  viridanus  (as  described 

M 


178  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

above)  breeds  from  Pomerania  and  the  Baltic  Provinces  to  Western 
Siberia,  Altair,  North-western  Mongolia  and  Dzungaria  to  Gilgit  and 
Kashmir.  It  winters  in  India  below  lines  from  Meerut  to  Bombay  and 
from  the  Sikkim  Tera  to  Calcutta.  On  passage  it  is  very  common  in 
parts  of  the  Himalayas,  Punjab  and  North-west  Frontier  Province. 
A  greyer  race,  P.  t.  ludlowi,  breeds  in  Baltistan  and  winters  in  the 
upper  Eastern  Ghats.  This  race  intergrades  through  Gahrwal  and 
Kumaon  into  the  much  darker  P.  t.  trochiloides  which  breeds  in  the 
Eastern  Himalayas  and  South-western  China  and  winters  in  North- 
eastern India. 

P.  t.  nitidus  breeds  in  the  Caucasus,  Transcaspia  and  Persia, 
passes  in  considerable  numbers  through  North-western  India  on 
passage  and  winters  in  South-western  India  and  Ceylon.  It  is  a  much 
brighter  green  above,  bright  primrose-yellow  below  and  has  two  pale 
yellow  wing- bars. 

Habits,  etc. — This  Willow- Wren  spends  its  whole  time  in  the 
winter  in  creeping  about  the  foliage  of  trees  collecting  insects  and 
their  larvae  and  eggs  ;  it  is  more  silent  than  most  of  the  other  common 
species,  but  has  as  call-note  a  penetrating  chi-wee.  During  the  spring 
and  autumn  passage  it  often  swarms  in  North-western  India,  every 
tree  containing  one  or  more  individuals. 

In  the  Himalayas  it  breeds  from  May  to  July.  The  nest  is  a 
large,  untidy  ball  of  grass  and  moss,  mixed  sometimes  with  a  few 
roots  and  dead  leaves,  the  cavity  being  lined  with  wool  and  hair. 
The  entrance  is  on  one  side.  It  is  always  placed  on  steep  ground, 
either  in  the  open  or  amongst  scrub  and  herbage. 

Four  eggs  are  laid,  pure  white,  very  fragile  and  soft  in  texture 
with  practically  no  gloss. 

They  measure  about  0-6  by  0-45  inches. 


THE  LARGE  CROWNED  WILLOW-WREN 

PHYLLOSCOPUS  OCCIPITALIS  (Blyth) 
(Plate  xii,  Fig.  4,  opposite  page  242) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
olive-green,  the  crown  of  the  head  darker  and  with  a  broad  irregular 
streak  down  the  centre  ;  a  well-defined  yellowish  line  above  the  eye 
and  a  dark  line  through  it ;  concealed  portions  of  the  wings  and  tail 
dark  brown  ;  two  yellowish  wing-bars,  the  upper  less  distinct,  and  both 
tending  to  disappear  in  worn  plumage  ;  lower  plumage  white  suffused 
with  pale  yellow. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  brown,  lower  mandible  yellow  ;  legs  greyish- 
brown. 


THE    LARGE    CROWNED    WILLOW-WREN  179 

Field  Identification. — The  common  breeding  Willow- Wren  of  the 
Western  Himalayan  stations ;  green  above,  white  below,  with  a 
marked  eye-streak  and  a  pale  streak  on  the  top  of  the  head  ;  rather 
bold  and  noisy  in  demeanour. 

Distribution. — A  purely  Asiatic  Willow- Wren,  which  breeds  very 
commonly  in  Turkestan,  Afghanistan,  and  the  Western  Himalayas 
as  far  east  as  Nepal.  In  the  Western  Himalayas  it  breeds  at  elevations 
between  6500  and  9000  feet,  being  the  common  breeding  Willow- 
Wren  of  all  the  hill  stations.  In  winter  it  migrates  through  or  winters 
in  the  whole  of  India  (except  Sind),  extending  to  Travancore,  Orissa 
and  Bengal. 

Habits,  etc. — This  Willow- Wren  spends  most  of  its  time  in  trees 
when  in  the  plains,  but  in  the  hills  it  feeds  a  good  deal  in  bushes 
where  it  wanders  with  the  mixed  hunting  parties  of  small  insectivorous 
birds.  Its  call-note  is  a  loud  sharp  tit-wheet  or  chip-chip,  chip-chip. 
When  breeding  it  has  a  loud  song,  the  most  monotonous  repetition 
of  a  rather  shrill  whistling  note  seven  times  repeated,  and  at  that 
season  is  much  addicted  to  flirting  its  wings  ;  then,  too,  the  males 
become  combative  and  quarrelsome. 

In  the  Himalayas  the  breeding  season  is  in  May,  June,  and  July. 
The  nest  is  placed  in  holes,  either  amongst  the  roots  of  trees,  in 
banks  and  walls,  or  even  under  the  eaves  of  houses.  It  varies  in 
shape  according  to  the  circumstances  of  the  hole,  being  either  a 
well-made  domed  structure  or  a  mere  pad,  and  is  composed  chiefly 
of  moss  ;  grass,  hair  and  wool  are  sometimes  added  as  a  lining. 

Four  to  six  eggs  are  laid  ;  they  are  rather  elongated  ovals,  often 
sharply  pointed  at  the  smaller  end,  fine  in  texture  and  pure  white 
with  a  slight  gloss. 

They  measure  about  0-65  by  0-50  inches. 


THE  GREY-HEADED   FLYCATCHER-WARBLER 
SEICERCUS  XANTHOSCHISTOS  (Gray) 

(Plate  iv,  Fig.  i,  opposite  page  66) 

Description. — Length  4  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Top  and  sides  of 
the  head  and  neck  and  the  upper  back  pale  ashy-brown  ;  a  paler 
streak  down  the  centre  of  the  crown  and  another  above  the  eye ; 
remainder  of  upper  plumage  yellowish-green,  the  concealed  portions 
of  the  wings  and  tail  brown,  the  two  outer  pairs  of  tail-feathers  white 
on  the  inner  webs  ;  the  whole  lower  plumage  bright  yellow. 

Iris  dark  brown ;  bill  dark  brown,  lower  mandible  yellow ;  legs 
olive-brown ;  soles  yellow. 

Field  Identification. — Abundant  Himalayan  form,  of  the  Willow- 


i8o          POPULAR   HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

Wren  type  in  appearance ;  upper  parts  grey  and  green,  with  pale 
stripes  on  the  head,  lower  parts  bright  yellow ;  white  outer  tail- 
feathers  conspicuous.  Noisy  and  bold  in  trees  and  undergrowth. 

Distribution. — A  Himalayan  species,  extending  from  the  hills  of 
the  North-west  Frontier  Province  on  the  west  into  Assam  and  the 
Chin  Hills  in  the  east.  It  is  divided  into  Eastern  and  Western  races 
which  meet  about  Nepal  The  Eastern  race  is  the  typical  one,  while 
the  Western  race,  S.  x.  albosuperciliaris,  is  considerably  paler  through- 
out, especially  about  the  head.  It  breeds  between  3500  and  7000  feet, 
and  while  some  birds  winter  in  this  zone  the  majority  move  lower, 
and  numbers  of  the  Western  race  penetrate  into  the  plains  in  portions 
of  the  Punjab  and  United  Provinces. 

Another  common  species  in  this  genus  is  the  Black-browed 
Flycatcher- Warbler  (Seicercus  burkii)  in  which  the  lateral  bands  on 
the  head  are  blackish.  A  marked  yellow  ring  round  the  eye.  It  is 
found  throughout  the  Himalayas  as  far  west  as  Dharmsala. 

Habits,  etc. — This  pretty  little  Warbler  is  a  very  familiar  species 
about  the  Himalayan  hill  stations.  It  is  found  in  all  types  of  wooded 
hills,  coming  freely  also  into  cultivation  and  gardens.  Except  when 
nesting  it  is  purely  arboreal  and  it  hunts  incessantly  for  insects  through 
the  leaves  and  twigs  of  trees  and  bushes,  both  singly  and  in  the 
mixed  hunting  parties.  Its  song  is  a  loud  and  rather  monotonous, 
though  not  unpleasing,  trill  of  several  notes,  which  is  one  of  the 
most  familiar  sounds  of  the  Lower  Himalayas.  The  call-note  is  a 
rather  plaintive  pritt-pritt  or  tyee-tyee. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  March  to  June  in  the  Western 
Himalayas  and  from  April  to  August  in  the  east. 

The  nest  is  a  large,  globular-domed  structure,  with  a  rather  large 
entrance  high  on  one  side.  It  is  composed  chiefly  of  moss  with 
which  are  mixed  dry  leaves  and  grasses  and  other  miscellaneous 
rubbish.  The  cavity  is  thickly  lined  with  hair  and  wool  in  the 
Western  race,  and  more  sparingly  with  vegetable  downs  and  roots  in 
the  Eastern  race.  The  nest  is  usually  placed  on  a  grassy  bank  at 
the  foot  of  a  bush  and  is  well  concealed  and  difficult  to  find  unless 
the  bird  is  watched  to  it. 

Three  to  five  eggs  are  laid,  but  the  normal  clutch  consists  of 
four  eggs.  The  egg  is  a  moderately  broad  oval,  of  fine  texture,  with 
a  fair  amount  of  gloss.  The  colour  is  pure  white. 

The  egg  measures  about  O'  60  by  o-  5  inches. 


THE    BROWN    HILL-WARBLER 


THE  BROWN  HILL-WARBLER 

SUYA   CRINIGERA   HodgSOH 
(Plate  xii,  Fig.  6,  opposite  page  243) 

Description. — Length  7  inches,  including  tail  of  4  inches.  Sexes 
alike.  Winter  plumage :  Upper  surface  fulvous-brown,  streaked 
with  black  except  on  the  rump  ;  wings  brown,  edged  with  rufous  ; 
tail  long  and  graduated,  brown,  obsoletely  cross-rayed,  the  feathers 
with  indistinct  pale  tips  preceded  by  a  darker  spot ;  lower  plumage 
fulvous,  slightly  flecked  with  blackish  on  the  throat  and  breast,  and 
whitish  on  the  middle  of  the  abdomen. 

Summer  plumage  :  Upper  surface  dark  brown,  the  feathers  edged 
with  olivaceous ;  lower  plumage  uniform  pale  fulvous,  the  feathers 
of  the  breast  showing  their  dark  bases  ;  wings  and  tail  as  in  winter 
except  that  the  tail  is  shorter. 

Iris  yellow-brown  ;  bill,  summer  black,  in  winter  brown,  lower 
mandible  fleshy  ;  legs  fleshy-pink. 

Field  Identification. — Northern  hill  form  ;  a  small  brown  bird, 
paler  below  and  usually  streaked  above,  with  a  very  long  graduated 
tail ;  usually  skulks  in  grass  and  bushes,  but  sits  in  elevated  and 
exposed  positions  to  utter  a  loud,  reeling  song. 

Distribution. — The  Brown  Hill- Warbler  has  a  wide  distribution 
in  the  hills  that  bound  the  whole  of  Continental  India,  through 
Assam  and  Burma,  reaching  on  the  east  as  far  as  China.  It  is 
divided  into  several  races,  of  which  two  concern  us.  The  typical 
race  is  found  from  the  North-west  Frontier  Province,  along  the  whole 
of  the  Himalayas,  as  far  as  North-western  Assam,  at  elevations 
from  2500  to  7500  feet  and  sometimes  higher.  S.  c.  striatula, 
which  is  much  colder  and  greyer  in  coloration,  is  found  from  plains 
level  up  to  about  3000  feet  in  the  Punjab  Salt  Range  and  the  hills 
running  from  the  western  limit  of  the  typical  form  along  the  North- 
western Frontier  down  to  Baluchistan.  It  is  a  resident  species. 

Habits,  etc. — This  hill  bird  avoids  forest  and  keeps  either  to 
grassland  and  the  neighbourhood  of  cultivation,  or  else  to  scrub - 
jungle  on  bare  stony  hill-sides,  often  in  the  most  barren  and  desolate 
hills.  It  is  capable  of  bearing  great  extremes  of  temperature.  It  is 
rather  a  skulker  and  spends  most  of  its  time  clambering  about  like 
a  mouse  in  the  interior  of  bushes  and  tangles  of  vegetation,  threading 
its  way  deftly  amongst  the  stems  and  often  descending  to  the  ground. 
The  flight  is  rather  weak  and  jerky,  and  the  bird  seldom  flies  far  at 
a  stretch.  The  long  tail  is  an  expressive  feature,  freely  jerked  in 
response  to  the  bird's  emotions.  The  bird  is,  however,  best  known 
to  people  through  the  medium  of  its  song,  a  wheezy,  scraping  series 

M  2 


i8z  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

of  notes  repeated  to  monotony  like  the  sound  of  a  saw ;  this  song 
is  very  commonly  heard  on  open  hill-sides  round  the  hill  stations 
of  the  Himalayas,  and  the  little  bird  utters  it  from  the  top  of  a  bush 
or  tall  plant,  or  from  a  telegraph-wire  often  high  above  a  nullah. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  May  to  July,  but  the  majority  of 
birds  lay  in  May. 

The  nest  is  a  flimsy,  oval-domed  structure,  with  the  entrance 
towards  the  top  at  one  side  ;  it  is  composed  of  grass-blades,  felted 
with  grass  down,  the  bottom  of  the  interior  being  lined  with  fine 
grass-stems.  It  is  built  within  4  or  5  feet  of  the  ground,  in  small 
thorny  bushes,  in  herbage  or  in  the  grass. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  four  eggs.  The  egg  is  in  shape 
a  regular  but  somewhat  elongated  oval  with  a  fair  amount  of  gloss. 
The  ground-colour  varies  from  white  to  pale  salmon-*pink ;  the 
markings  consist  of  fine  speckles,  spots  and  blotches  of  reddish- 
brown,  sometimes  scattered  over  the  whole  surface  but  more  usually 
tending  to  collect  in  a  marked  zone  or  cap  round  the  broad  end. 

In  size  the  eggs  average  about  o-  70  by  o-  50  inches. 


THE  STREAKED  WREN-WARBLER 
PRINIA  GRACILIS  (Lichtenstein) 

Description. — Length  5  inches,  half  of  which  is  tail.  Sexes  alike. 
Upper  plumage  fulvous-brown  streaked  with  dark  brown  ;  sides  of 
face  mottled  brown  and  white  ;  wings  brown  edged  with  fulvous  ; 
tail,  long  and  graduated,  brown,  distinctly  cross-rayed,  the  feathers 
tipped  with  white  preceded  by  a  dark  spot ;  the  whole  lower  plumage 
very  pale  fulvous. 

Iris  yellow ;  bill  black  in  summer,  in  winter  brown,  the  lower 
mandible  horny-yellowish  ;  legs  fleshy-white,  claws  brown. 

This  and  the  following  species  of  the  genus  Prinia  have  ten  tail- 
feathers  as  opposed  to  twelve  in  Franklinia. 

Field  Identification. — A  minute  bird  with  a  long  graduated  tail, 
streaked  light  and  dark  brown  above  and  pale  below ;  chiefly  found 
in  coarse  sarpat  grass  in  riverain  tracts.  A  miniature  of  the  Brown 
Hill- Warbler.  Distinguished  from  the  other  Wren-Warblers  by  the 
streaks  on  the  upper  plumage. 

Distribution. — This  Wren-Warbler  has  a  wide  distribution  through 
Northern  Africa,  Palestine,  Southern  Arabia,  Persia,  and  Northern 
India  generally.  It  is  divided  into  several  races,  of  which  we  are 
concerned  with  two.  P.  g.  lepida  is  found  in  Afghanistan,  North-west 
Frontier  Province,  Punjab,  Sind,  the  United  Provinces,  and  Rajputana. 


THE    STREAKED    WREN-WARBLER  183 

A  rather  darker  race,  P.  g.  stevensi,  is  found  in  Assam  and  Eastern 
Bengal  and  in  the  Ganges  delta.  A  strictly  resident  species. 

Habits,  etc. — This,  the  smallest  of  the  Wren- Warblers  of  the 
genus  Prinia,  is  essentially  a  bird  of  riverain  areas,  frequenting  the 
low  sandy-ground,  studded  with  clumps  of  sarpat  grass  and  thickets 
of  tamarisk,  which  is  found  in  the  wide  and  partly  dry  beds  of  the 
great  rivers  of  Northern  India.  Where  similar  conditions  are 
reproduced  along  the  sides  of  canals  and  in  the  neighbourhood  of 
j heels  there  also  will  the  bird  be  found.  In  such  localities  it  creeps 
about  the  stems  of  the  grass  and  tamarisk,  at  a  height  of  two  or 
three  feet  from  the  ground,  venturing  into  the  open  occasionally  to 
fly  from  clump  to  clump,  no  light  task  to  so  clumsily-balanced  and 
weak  a  flier.  It  constantly  makes  a  curious  snapping  noise  with 
its  bill. 

When  nesting  the  cock  bird  chooses  a  high  stem  of  grass  in  the 
vicinity  of  the  nest,  and  from  it  untiringly  pours  out  a  feeble 
monotonous  song,  which  betrays  the  site  to  those  who  know  his 
habits. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  March  to  August,  and  it  is 
probable  that  two  broods  are  reared.  The  nest  is  a  tiny  oval- 
domed  structure  with  the  entrance  hole  high  on  one  side  ;  it  is  built 
of  fine  grasses  and  shreds  of  grass-blades,  the  inside  being  softly 
lined  with  the  pappus  of  grass  seeds.  It  is  placed  about  2  feet  from 
the  ground  in  the  centre  of  the  thick  clumps  of  sarpat  grass,  which 
by  then  have  usually  been  cut  off  about  3  feet  from  the  ground  for 
village  purposes. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  broad  oval,  rather  pointed  towards  the  smaller  end, 
and  fine  in  texture  with  a  decided  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is 
greyish-,  greenish-  or  pinkish-white,  and  the  markings  consist  of  a 
fine  and  thickly  distributed  freckling  of  brownish-red  and  purplish- 
grey,  with  a  tendency  to  form  a  cap  or  zone  at  the  broad  end. 

In  size  it  averages  about  0-53  by  0-44  inches. 


THE  ASHY  WREN-WARBLER 
PRINIA  SOCIALIS  Sykes 

(Plate  vi,  Fig.  3,  opposite  page  no) 

Description. — Length  5  inches,  of  which  half  is  tail.  Sexes  alike. 
Summer  plumage  :  Whole  upper  plumage  dark  ashy,  sometimes  with 
a  white  line  over  the  eye  ;  lower  plumage  including  sides  of  face 
pale  buff  ;  wings  rufous  ;  tail  long  and  graduated,  rufous,  the  feathers 
tipped  with  white  preceded  by  dark  spots. 


184          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

Winter  plumage  :  Top  of  head  ashy  with  a  rufous  tinge  ;  a  short 
white  line  over  the  eye ;  remainder  of  upper  plumage  including 
wings  and  tail  rufous-brown,  the  tail  having  the  same  markings  as  in 
the  summer  plumage,  but  being  one  inch  longer ;  lower  plumage 
buff,  except  the  chin,  throat  and  central  abdomen  which  are  white. 

Iris  yellow-brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  fleshy. 

Field  Identification. — A  very  small  bird  with  a  long  tail ;  upper 
parts  dark  ashy,  lower  parts  warm  buff.  Found  singly  or  in  pajrs  in 
rank  herbage,  particularly  in  gardens,  attracting  attention  by  its  sharp 
call-note. 

Distribution. — The  Ashy  Wren-Warbler  is  one  of  the  commonest 
birds  of  India  and  is  widely  distributed  throughout  the  whole 
continent  from  the  Outer  Himalayas  to  Ceylon,  though  it  is  not 
found  in  Kashmir,  the  North-west  Frontier  Province,  Baluchistan, 
or  Sind.  On  the  east  it  reaches  Eastern  Assam.  There  are  four 
races  :  P.  s.  brevicauda  of  Ceylon  and  the  typical  race,  found  through- 
out the  Peninsula  south  of  a  line  between  Mhow  and  Lohardugga, 
have  their  winter  plumage  similar  to  the  summer  plumage.  The 
former  is,  however,  smaller  with  a  shorter  tail.  P.  s.  stewarti  of 
Northern  India  assumes  the  very  distinct  winter  plumage  described 
above.  In  the  Duars  and  Upper  Assam  it  is  replaced  by  P.  s.  inglisi, 
a  darker  bird  with  a  fine  short  beak.  All  races  are  strictly  sedentary. 

Habits,  etc. — This  little  bird  is  found  both  in  the  hills  and  the 
plains.  But  while  in  the  north  it  is  only  found  up  to  about  4000 
feet  in  the  hills,  in  the  warmer  south  it  occurs  up  to  about  7000  feet, 
literally  swarming  in  suitable  places  in  the  Nilgiris.  It  is  a  bird  of 
open  country,  avoiding  forest,  and  preferring  cultivation,  whether  in 
the  shape  of  gardens  or  arable  land.  It  is  perfectly  at  home  in  the 
close  vicinity  of  houses  and  villages,  and  may  equally  be  found  in 
open,  rolling  grassland.  In  all  these  localities  it  requires  cover  in 
the  shape  of  bushes,  tangles  of  weeds  and  other  herbage  or  crops 
and  it  is  very  fond  of  fields  of  sugar-cane.  As  in  the  case  of  the 
Indian  Wren-Warbler,  therefore,  this  species  is  compelled  to  move 
its  ground  slightly  according  to  the  state  of  the  crops  in  which  it 
lives.  Its  habits  are  the  same  as  those  of  that  species,  but  it  is  perhaps 
more  excitable  and  noisy  during  the  breeding  season,  its  very  anxiety 
often  betraying  the  nest  which  it  is  anxious  to  preserve  from 
marauders.  The  call-note  is  very  loud  and  sharp,  and  the  song  is 
less  of  a  jingle  than  that  of  the  Indian  Wren-Warbler. 

This  bird  appears  often  to  be  double-brooded  and  nests  may  be 
found  from  March  till  September ;  but  the  majority  are  undoubtedly 
built  with  the  commencement  of  the  rains  in  June  or  July  and  the 
growth  of  the  bush  vegetation  in  which  the  little  bird  delights  to 
have  his  being. 

The  nest  is  very  variable  and  falls  into  three  types.     The  first 


THE   ASHY    WREN-WARBLER  185 

type  closely  recalls  the  nest  of  the  Tailor-bird,  sewing  entering  largely 
into  its  composition.  Either  the  nest  is  placed  within  the  orifice 
formed  by  sewing  together  the  edges  of  two  or  three  leaves,  or  else 
it  is  attached  to  a  single  large  leaf  whose  edges  are  drawn  about  it, 
and  partly  enclose  it ;  large  soft  leaves,  such  as  those  of  the  sunflower, 
fig  and  bindweed,  are  preferred  for  the  purpose.  The  actual  nest  in 
this  type  is  a  deep  cup  of  fine  dry  grass  stems  and  roots,  mixed  and 
lined  with  a  few  horse-hairs,  all  visible  portions  of  the  outside  and 
the  corners  of  the  cavity  between  the  stitches  being  plastered  and 
stuffed  with  a  rough  felting  of  vegetable  cotton  and  fibre  and  similar 
materials.  The  sewing  is  either  a  genuine  in-and-out  stitch  used  to 
draw  the  edges  of  leaves  together,  or  else  the  mere  pushing  of  rough 
knots  of  cotton  through  punctured  holes  in  the  leaf. 

The  second  type  of  nest  is  an  oval-domed  structure  of  varied 
shape  and  size,  with  the  entrance  on  one  side.  It  is  composed  of 
fine  shreds  and  stems  of  grass,  fibres  and  threads,  the  result  being 
a  drab-coloured  ball ;  it  is  built  in  thick  bushes  and  occasionally 
is  steadied  by  the  sewing  of  a  leaf  or  two  to  the  outside. 

The  third  type  of  nest  is  a  rough  shapeless  ball  of  roots  or  grass 
thrown  together  between  the  stems  of  a  plant  and  hardly  attached  to 
them. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs,  and  occasionally  as 
many  as  six.  The  eggs  are  very  handsome.  They  are  a  rather 
perfect  oval  with  a  tendency  to  vary  to  a  globular  shape  ;  there  is  a 
high  gloss.  In  colour  they  are  a  rich  brick-red,  sometimes  paler  and 
yellower,  sometimes  deeper  and  of  a  mahogany  tint.  There  is  occa- 
sionally a  clouded  zone  of  deeper  coloration  about  the  broad  end. 

They  average  about  0-64  by  0-47  inches  in  size. 

In  the  Deccan  this  bird  is  a  common  foster-parent  for  the  Indian 
Plaintive  Cuckoo  (Cacomantis  merulinus). 


THE  JUNGLE  WREN-WARBLER 
PRINIA  SYLVATICA  Jerdon 

Description. — Length  6  inches,  female  rather  smaller.  Sexes  alike. 
Summer  plumage  :  The  whole  upper  parts  greyish-brown,  a  pale  buff 
line  over  the  eye  ;  wings  dark  brown,  the  edges  of  the  feathers  washed 
with  fulvous  ;  central  tail-feathers  greyish-brown,  the  others  growing 
progressively  paler  and  whiter  until  the  outer  pair  is  almost  entirely 
white  ;  lower  plumage  pale  whitish-buff. 

Winter  plumage  :  Upper  plumage  warm  ruddy  fulvous,  a  pale  buff 
line  over  the  eye  ;  wings  dark  brown,  the  edges  of  the  feathers  washed 
with  ruddy  fulvous ;  tail  dark  brown,  all  but  the  central  pair  of 


i86          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

feathers  with  pale  fulvous  tips,  preceded  by  dusky  subterminal  spots  ; 
lower  plumage  white  washed  with  ochraceous  on  the  breast  and  flanks. 

Iris  and  eye-rim  orange  ;  bill  black  in  summer,  in  winter  horny- 
brown,  lower  mandible  fleshy ;  mouth  black  in  summer,  brownish- 
pink  in  winter  ;  legs  pale  fleshy  brown,  claws  darker. 

Field  Identification. — A  small  brown  Warbler  with  a  fairly  long 
graduated  tail,  in  summer  showing  white  in  the  outer  feathers ;  it 
chiefly  comes  to  notice  from  its  habit  of  sitting  on  the  top  of  a  bush 
and  persistently  uttering  a  triple  note. 

Distribution. — Throughout  India  from  the  Himalayas  to  Ceylon. 
It  is  divided  into  two  races  in  India  and  a  third  in  Ceylon. 

The  northern  race,  P.  s.  gangetica,  is  found  across  Northern  India 
from  Gurdaspur  and  Jodhpur  to  the  Duars  and  Midnapur.  In  this 
race  there  are  distinct  summer  and  winter  plumages  as  described 
above.  The  Ceylon  race,  P.  s.  valida,on  the  other  hand,  has  the  summer 
and  winter  plumage  alike,  a  darker  brown  above  and  a  more  yellowish 
fulvous  below  without  white  on  the  lateral  tail-feathers.  This  is 
correlated  with  a  breeding  season  that  lasts  the  year  round  in  the 
island.  The  typical  race  (Hyderabad,  Mysore,  Madras  Presidency) 
lies  between  the  two  both  in  coloration  and  in  the  degree  of  difference 
between  the  two  plumages.  All  these  races  are  strictly  resident. 

Habits,  'etc. — This  Wren- Warbler  is  more  particularly  a  bird  of 
broken  boulder  covered  hills  dotted  with  sparse  and  stunted  vegetation 
of  the  cactus  and  thorn-bush  type.  It  is  also  found  in  bush  and  scrub- 
jungle,  in  light  forest  interspersed  with  grass  or  in  grass  on  the  edge 
of  heavier  forest.  In  such  terrain  it  comes  to  notice  from  its  habit 
of  perching  on  a  large  boulder,  on  a  dead  bough,  or  on  the  top  of  an 
isolated  bush  or  tree  and  there  uttering  a  soft  melodious  but  ventrilo- 
quistic  call  for  some  minutes  at  a  stretch,  repeating  it  again  after  a 
pause  of  two  or  three  seconds.  This  call  is  a  warbling  pretty  or  tissip, 
reminiscent  of  a  Tailor-bird's  call  but  louder  and  easily  distinguished 
from  it.  Each  pretty  is  preceded  by  a  curious  subdued  ventriloquistic 
pit,  uttered  in  a  different  key  so  that  the  song  is  really  formed  by  a 
succession  of  triple  notes.  As  soon  as  the  bird  has  finished  its  song 
it  descends  hurriedly  into  the  cover  below  with  a  quick  jerky  flight, 
It  also  has  a  peculiar  habit  of  rising  into  the  air  for  a  short  distance 
and  making  a  noise  (with  the  wings  or  beak  I  am  not  certain 
which)  like  a  diminutive  cracker,  returning  afterwards  often  to  the 
same  perch,  sometimes  to  a  fresh  one.  This  habit  is  shared  by  Prinia 
inornata  and  socialis.  The  alarm- note  at  the  nest  is  a  loud  pit  pit  pit 
pit  pit.  This  species  is  wary  and  difficult  to  approach  and  the  nest 
is  readily  deserted. 

The  breeding  season  in  India  is  from  July  to  the  end  of  August. 
The  nest  is  comparatively  large  and  is  placed  in  the  centre  of  a  thorn 
bush,  usually  on  rocky  ground,  or  in  the  middle  of  a  tussock  of  coarse 


THE    JUNGLE    WREN-WARBLER  187 

grass.  It  is  a  dome-shaped  ball  of  grass  with  the  entrance  on  one  side 
and  is  often  fairly  conspicuous,  as  the  outside  is  smeared  over  with 
white  vegetable-downs  and  fibres  or  with  cobwebs. 

The  clutch  consists  of  four  or  five  eggs.  They  are  somewhat 
elongated  ovals,  of  hard  and  fine  texture  with  a  fair  amount  of  gloss. 
The  ground-colour  is  a  greenish  or  greyish  stone-colour  finely  and 
often  rather  sparsely  freckled  with  faint  reddish-brown.  In  some  eggs 
these  markings  are  almost  invisible.  They  are,  however,  usually 
gathered  into  a  conspicuous  zone  round  the  broad  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-75  by  0-50  inches. 


THE  INDIAN  WREN-WARBLER 

PRINIA  INORNATA  Sykes 
(Plate  xii,  Fig.  5,  opposite  page  242) 

Description. — Length  5  inches,  including  tail  2  inches.  Sexes 
alike.  Summer  plumage  :  Upper  plumage  dull  earthy-brown,  the 
wings  and  tail  edged  with  pale  fulvous  ;  the  tail  long,  graduated  and 
cross -rayed  ;  dark  subterminal  spots  on  the  feathers  are  hardly  visible 
except  from  below.  A  ring  round  the  eye,  and  a  line  above  it  dull 
whitish  ;  the  whole  lower  plumage  pale  buff. 

In  winter  plumage  the  whole  of  the  upper  parts,  wings  and  tail 
are  more  rufous  in  tint,  and  the  tail  is  an  inch  longer. 

Iris  yellow-brown  ;  bill  black  in  summer,  in  winter  brown  with 
the  base  of  the  lower  mandible  fleshy  ;  legs  flesh  colour. 

Field  Identification. — A  plains  bird,  common  in  cultivation  ;  very 
small,  with  a  long  tail ;  dark  brown  above,  buff  below,  appearing  rather 
dingy  in  the  field  ;  black  beak  noticeable  in  summer  ;  makes  a  curious 
snapping  noise  in  flight.  To  be  distinguished  from  the  Ashy  Wren- 
Warbler  by  its  dingier  plumage  and  by  having  the  crown  brown 
instead  of  bluish-ashy. 

Distribution. — The  Indian  Wren-Warbler  is  found  throughout 
the  Indian  Empire  south  of  the  Himalayas,  in  the  outer  fringe  of 
which  it  occurs  up  to  about  4000  feet,  and  it  also  extends  farther 
to  the  east.  It  is  divided  into  several  races  :  P.  i.  frankliniiy  in 
the  Nilgiris,  Palnis  and  probably  also  the  Travancore  range,  and 
P.  i.  insularis,  Ceylon,  are  very  dark  in  colour,  the  latter  having  a 
very  large  beak,  and  showing  no  difference  between  the  summer  and 
winter  plumages.  In  the  typical  race,  found  in  Central  and  Western 
India,  the  summer  and  winter  plumages  differ  as  described  above. 
This  race  grades  on  the  one  hand  into  the  paler  and  more  brightly 
coloured  P.  i.  terricolor  of  the  North-west  Frontier  Province,  Punjab, 
Sind,  and  the  United  Provinces,  which  has  also  a  much  longer  tail 


i88  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

in  winter.  P.  i.  fusca  of  the  Nepal  and  Sikkim  Terai,  the  Duars 
and  Upper  Assam,  is  more  saturated  in  colour  with  a  more  pronounced 
fulvous  wash  on  the  lower  parts. 

The  Pale  Bush- Warbler  (Homochlamys  pallidus  Brooks). — Is  here 
mentioned  on  account  of  its  very  remarkable  song  which  attracts 
attention  in  spring,  and  although  common  the  bird  itself  is  difficult 
to  see  as  it  is  a  great  skulker  in  low  dense  bush  jungle.  The  song, 
which  is  loud  and  clear  for  such  a  small  bird,  consists  of  two  phrases, 
the  first  of  five  notes  and  the  second  of  three  only,  the  two  phrases 
separated  by  an  interval  of  about  five  seconds.  The  second  part  is, 
moreover,  in  a  different  and  higher  key  than  the  first.  Each  phrase 
begins  with  a  long-drawn  note  and  the  whole  song  may  be  syllabised 
as  follows  :  "  You  .  .  .  mixed-it-so-quick,"  then  an  interval  of  five 
seconds,  followed  by  :  "  He'll  .  .  .  beat  you." 

This  little  bird  is  similar  to  many  of  the  other  small  Warblers, 
is  of  an  olive-brown  with  pale  yellow  supcrcilium  and  the  lower 
plumage  dull  greyish.  It  is  found  in  the  breeding  season  from  Kashmir 
and  Hazara  to  Garhwal  and  Kumaon  at  from  7000  to  9000  feet,  but 
its  winter  quarters  are  unknown,  though  some  pass  through  Dehra 
Dun  on  passage  in  spring  and  autumn.  A  nearly  allied  species, 
but  rather  smaller  and  with  the  upper  plumage  tinged  rufous,  is  the 
Strong-footed  Bush -Warbler,  Homochlamys  fortipes,  found  from  Nepal 
to  the  Burmese  Hills.  It  has  the  same  striking  song  as  the  Pale 
Bush-Warbler  but  with  a  very  slight  difference. 

Habits,  etc. — This  quaint  little  bird  is  one  of  the  commonest  of 
Indian  resident  birds,  though  from  its  small  size  and  skulking  habits 
it  does  not  attract  much  attention.  It  is  particularly  a  bird  of 
standing  crops,  sugar-cane,  wheat,  millet,  and  the  like,  and  it  is 
also  partial  to  long  grass  ;  in  bushes  and  other  low  cover  it  is 
sometimes  found  but  not  so  commonly.  Bare  ground  and  forest 
are  abhorrent  to  it.  Like  others  of  the  Wren-Warblers,  it  is  a  poor 
flier,  its  top-heavy  labouring  flight  being  almost  laughable.  As  is 
indicated  by  the  large  strong  legs,  its  chief  mode  of  progression  is  on 
foot,  and  it  spends  its  life  climbing  about  the  stems  of  the  cover 
in  which  it  lives,  threading  its  way  about  with  dexterity ;  when 
disturbed  in  the  crops  it  rapidly  progresses  from  stem  to  stem,  then 
takes  to  flight  over  the  top  of  the  seed-heads,  flies  heavily  for  a  yard 
or  two,  and  finally  plunges  back  into  the  midst  of  the  cover,  where 
it  again  commences  to  climb  and  hop  rapidly  along.  As  it  flies 
it  makes  a  snapping  noise  almost  like  the  crackle  of  an  electric  spark. 

While  in  no  sense  a  migrant,  its  dependence  on  crops  for  cover 
necessitates  a  certain  amount  of  local  movement  according  to  season. 
Its  skulking  habits  render  it  indifferent  to  the  presence  of  man,  and 
it  occurs  commonly  in  the  vicinity  of  houses  and  villages  and  in 
gardens.  The  food  consists  of  insects. 


THE   INDIAN  WREN-WARBLER  189 

The  song  of  this  bird  is  a  familiar  sound  in  the  cultivation, 
where  it  lives.  It  makes  up  in  vigour  for  what  it  lacks  in  beauty, 
consisting  merely  of  a  series  of  loud  jingling  wheezy  trills,  that 
rather  suggest  the  shaking  of  a  bunch  of  keys. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  March  to  September. 

The  nest  is  a  very  elegant  and  distinctive  structure,  globular  or  a 
long  purse-shape,  domed,  with  the  entrance  high  on  one  side ;  it  is 
semi-transparent,  being  made  of  a  regular  lace-work  of  fine  strips 
torn  from  the  blades  of  green  grass,  woven  in  and  out,  and  anchored 
here  and  there  with  similar  grass-work  to  the  surrounding  stems 
and  leaves.  There  is  no  lining.  It  is  placed  from  3  to  6  feet  from 
the  ground  in  standing  crops  or  clumps  of  sarpat  grass  or  thorny 
bushes. 

The  eggs,  too,  are  very  distinctive  and  beautiful.  They  are  a 
moderately  long  oval,  with  a  strong  shell,  fine  in  texture  and  highly 
glossy.  The  ground-colour  is  pale  greenish-blue  (or  rarely  pinkish- 
white)  marked  boldly  with  blotches,  clouds  and  fine  hair-lines  of  deep 
chocolate  and  reddish-brown. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-61  by  0-45  inches. 

This  bird  is  a  favourite  foster-parent  for  the  Indian  Plaintive 
Cuckoo  (Cacomantis  merulinus). 


THE  FAIRY  BLUE-BIRD 

IRENA  PUELLA  (Latham) 
(Frontispiece,  Fig.  2) 

Description. — Length  10  inches.  Male  :  Deep  velvet-black  except 
for  the  top  of  the  head  and  neck,  the  whole  upper  plumage,  the  lesser 
wing-coverts  and  a  faint  bar  on  the  wing  and  a  patch  under  the  tail 
shining  ultramarine  blue  with  lilac  reflections. 

Female  :  Dull  peacock-blue,  the  feathers  with  dark  shafts  ;  wings 
and  tail  blackish-brown  washed  with  peacock-blue. 

Iris  crimson  ;  eye-rims  pinkish  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Field  Identification. — Eastern  Himalayas  and  the  hills  of  Assam 
and  South  India.  Male  quite  unmistakable,  deep  black  with  shining 
blue  upper  parts.  Female  dull  peacock-blue  throughout.  Found  in 
parties  in  high  trees.  Has  a  very  characteristic  call. 

Distribution. — The  species  is  found  in  Ceylon,  India,  Burma,  the 
Andamans  and  Nicobars,  the  Malay  Peninsula  and  Siam,  Annam 
and  Cochin-China.  In  India  we  are  concerned  with  two  races.  The 
typical  race  is  found  in  Ceylon  and  in  the  Western  Ghats  from 
Travancore  to  Belgaum  and  in  the  Chitteri  Hills  of  the  Eastern  Ghats. 


IQO  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

In  these  hills  it  is  found  from  their  bases  up  to  about  5000  feet.  A 
slightly  larger  form,  /.  p.  sikktmensis,  is  found  at  the  edge  of  the  plains 
in  the  lower  ranges  of  the  Himalayas  from  Sikkim  to  the  Miri  Hills 
and  in  the  Khasia  Hills,  Cachar  and  Manipur  in  Assam. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Fairy  Blue-Bird  is  a  forest-haunting  species  and 
it  is  more  particularly  a  bird  of  the  evergreen  forest.  Except  in  the 
breeding  season  it  collects  into  small  parties  of  five  or  six  individuals 
and  more  rarely  into  flocks  of  anything  up  to  thirty  or  forty  birds. 
These  frequent  the  tops  of  high  trees  though  they  occasionally  come 
down  into  the  undergrowth  and  in  the  middle  of  the  day  habitually 
descend  to  the  banks  of  streams  and  small  rivers  in  order  to  drink 
and  bathe.  They  are  very  bright  and  lively  birds  always  on  the  move, 
hopping  from  branch  to  branch  and  flying  from  tree  to  tree,  uttering 
a  very  distinctive  call  as  they  go.  This  is  variously  described  as  a 
pretty  bubbling  whistle,  a  pleasant  musical  weet-weet  or  a  rich  mellow 
percussive  what$-it  repeated  every  few  seconds. 

This  lovely  bird  is  by  no  means  as  conspicuous  as  one  would 
imagine  from  looking  at  a  stuffed  specimen.  Indeed  in  shady  forest 
the  male  generally  looks  as  black  as  a  Drongo  or  from  its  movements 
might  be  mistaken  for  a  Thrush  and  its  satin-blue  back  is  only  con- 
spicuous for  a  few  moments  as  the  bird  flutters  across  some  sunlit 
piece  of  open  jungle.  Females  and  the  similarly  coloured  young  males 
compose  many  of  the  parties  and  these  are  tame  enough,  allowing 
a  close  approach  as  they  feed  quietly  on  berries  regardless  of  the 
observer.  Adult  males  are  rather  shyer. 

The  food  is  said  to  consist  almost  exclusively  of  wild  fruits  and 
berries.  When  the  various  fig-trees  are  in  fruit  numbers  of  Blue- 
Birds  congregate  to  feed  there  in  company  with  Hornbills  and  Pigeons 
and  other  fruit-eating  birds.  The  nectar  is  also  sipped  from  Erythrina 
trees  and  the  pollen  from  the  flowers  will  often  be  seen  on  the  faces 
of  the  birds. 

The  breeding  season  ranges  from  January  to  May,  but  most  eggs 
will  be  found  in  March  and  April. 

The  nest  is  usually  built  in  a  sapling  between  10  and  20 
feet  from  the  ground  and  the  sapling  chosen  is  in  the  depth  of  damp 
forest  where  tall  trees  exclude  the  sun.  The  nest  is  a  shallow 
saucer  of  roots,  twigs  and  bents,  usually  intermixed  with  green  moss 
and  with  an  outer  cover  of  the  same. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  two  eggs.  The  shape  is  a  blunt 
oval  and  the  texture  is  close-grained  and  fine  with  a  moderate  gloss. 
The  ground-colour  is  greenish-white,  streaked,  spotted  and  blotched 
with  reddish-brown  and  inky-grey  and  underlying  paler  shades  of 
the  same.  The  blotches  are  usually  heavy  and  often  are  almost 
entirely  confluent  over  the  larger  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  r  10  by  0-75  inches. 


THE    GOLDEN    ORIOLE  191 

THE    GOLDEN    ORIOLE 

ORIOLUS  ORIOLUS  (Linnaeus), 
(Plate  x,  Fig.  3,  opposite  page  198) 

Description. — Length  9  inches.  Male  :  Rich  golden-yellow  except 
a  broad  line  through  the  eye,  practically  the  whole  of  the  wings  and 
the  central  portions  of  the  tail,  which  are  black. 

Female  :  Upper  parts  yellowish-green  ;  wings  brown,  the  feathers 
tipped  and  edged  with  greenish ;  tail  brownish-black  tipped  with 
yellow ;  under  parts  whitish,  washed  with  yellow  and  streaked  with 
dark  brown. 

Iris  dark  crimson  ;  bill  dark  pink  ;  legs  dark  slate. 

The  tail  is  slightly  rounded. 

Field  Identification. — Shy  and  purely  arboreal  species,  concealing 
itself  in  thick  foliaged  trees,  its  presence  revealed  by  the  liquid 
whistle  wiel-a-wo.  Male,  a  glorious  golden-yellow,  with  black  wings 
and  tail ;  female  greenish  with  dark  wings  and  tail. 

Distribution. — The  Golden  Oriole  is  widely  spread  over  Europe, 
Africa  and  Asia.  The  typical  race  just  skirts  Sind  and  Baluchistan 
on  passage,  but  within  our  area  we  are  really  concerned  with  only 
one  form,  O.  o.  kundoo,  which  differs  chiefly  from  the  typical  race  in 
the  fact  that  in  the  adult  male  the  black  of  the  lores,  i.e.,  the  eye- 
stripe,  extends  behind  the  eye.  This  form  breeds  in  Turkestan  and 
Gilgit,  in  Southern  and  Eastern  Afghanistan,  in  the  hill  areas  of 
Baluchistan,  throughout  Kashmir  and  the  Western  and  Central 
Himalayas,  and  in  the  plains  from  Rajputana  to  Western  Bengal  and 
south  to  Mysore.  It  winters  also  as  far  south  as  Cape  Comorin. 

In  the  mountain  areas  and  in  the  northern  part  of  the  plains  of 
India  the  Golden  Oriole  is  merely  a  summer  visitor,  moving  farther 
south  in  August  and  September  and  returning  to  its  breeding  grounds 
in  April  and  May. 

In  the  Himalayas  it  is  found  up  to  10,000  feet,  though  in  the 
outer  ranges  it  is  scarce  at  over  6000  feet. 

Habits,  etc. — With  the  ripening  of  the  mangoes  in  spring  the 
Golden  Oriole  arrives  in  Northern  India.  To  that  circumstance, 
combined  with  the  resemblance  of  the  greens  and  yellows  of  the  two 
sexes  to  the  fruit  and  leaves  of  their  favourite  tree,  is  due  the  popular 
Anglo-Indian  name  of  Mango-bird.  Orioles  are  strictly  arboreal, 
descending,  as  a  rule,  neither  to  undergrowth  nor  to  the  ground, 
and  by  nature  they  are  very  shy  and  secretive,  keeping  to  the  thickest 
portions  of  the  boughs  and  being  better  known  as  disembodied 
voices  than  as  birds ;  for  the  loud  mellow  whistle  pee-ou-a  or 
wiel-a-voo  is  one  of  the  pleasantest  and  most  familiar  of  Indian 
bird  sounds,  being  heard  alike  in  garden  and  forest,  greeting  the 


192  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

dawn  and  saluting  the  parting  day.  There  is,  in  addition,  a  faint 
but  very  sweet  and  plaintive  song,  though  from  its  very  faintness  it 
is  little  known.  The  flight  is  strong  and  dipping,  though  seldom 
long  sustained,  as  the  bird  prefers  to  travel  from  tree  to  tree. 

The  food  consists  of  insects,  caterpillars,  berries  and  fruit. 

The  breeding  season  ranges  from  May  to  August,  but  the  great 
majority  of  eggs  are  laid  in  June  and  July. 

The  nest  is  built  in  some  large  tree,  usually  at  a  height  of  over 
20  feet  from  the  ground.  It  is  a  moderately  deep  cup,  suspended 
invariably  within  a  slender  fork  towards  the  extremity  of  one  of  the 
boughs,  and  often  in  a  situation  where  no  climber  can  reach.  From 
below  it  looks  like  a  round  ball  of  grass  wedged  into  the  fork,  and 
the  sitting  bird  within  is  completely  hidden ;  but  in  the  hand  it 
proves  to  be  a  most  beautifully  woven  cup,  hung  from  the  fork  of 
two  twigs  and  secured  to  them,  much  as  a  prawn  net  is  to  its 
wooden  framework.  The  cup  is  deep  and  rounded  to  prevent  the 
eggs  rolling  out  in  a  high  wincl.  It  is  composed  of  fine  grass  and 
slender  strips  of  tenacious  bark  fibres,  and  the  ends  of  these  are 
wound  round  and  round  the  supporting  twigs.  Some  nests  contain 
no  extraneous  matter,  but  others  have  all  sorts  of  odds  and  ends 
woven  into  the  fabric,  scraps  of  newspaper,  rags,  shavings,  snake- 
sloughs,  thread,  and  the  like.  There  is  always  a  neat  lining  of  fine 
grass  stems.  There  is  some  variation  in  the  thickness  and  size  of 
the  nests. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  to  four  eggs.  These  vary  a  good 
deal  in  shape  and  size,  some  being  pyriform,  and  others  long  and 
cylindrical ;  the  texture  is  fine  and  with  a  high  gloss.  In  colour 
they  are  a  pure  china-white ;  the  markings  consist  of  well-defined 
black  spots  and  specks  more  or  less  thinly  sprinkled  over  the  surface 
of  the  egg,  chiefly  at  the  large  end.  In  some  cases  the  spots  are 
pale  yellowish-brown  or  deep  reddish-brown,  often  surrounded  with 
a  nimbus  of  the  same  colour. 

The  eggs  measure  about  i- 10  by  0-80  inches. 


THE  BLACK-HEADED  ORIOLE 

ORIOLUS  XANTHORNUS  (Linnaeus) 

Description. — Length  9  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Bright  golden- 
yellow  except  the  following  parts  which  are  black,  the  head,  chin 
and  throat,  the  greater  portion  of  the  wings,  the  shafts  of  the  tail- 
feathers  and  a  patch  on  the  tail  formed  by  the  ends  of  the  two 
(or  three)  central  pairs  of  tail-feathers. 


THE    BLACK-HEADED    ORIOLE  193 

In  immature  plumage  bpth  sexes  have  the  black  of  the  chin  and 
throat  replaced  by  black  and  white  striping. 

Iris  crimson  ;  bill  deep  pink  ;  legs  plumbeous. 

Field  Identification. — Arboreal ;  abundant  in  well- wooded  plains. 
A  bright  golden  bird  with  black  head,  wings  and  tail,  which  is  very 
active  and  noisy  in  the  trees. 

Distribution. — The  Black-headed  Oriole  extends  through  the 
greater  part  of  India,  Ceylon,  and  Burma  eastwards  to  Cambodia 
and  Siam.  We  are  concerned  with  three  races  which  differ  in  size 
and  the  amount  of  yellow  edging  to  the  wings  and  to  the  feathers 
of  the  forehead  and  crown  of  immature  birds.  The  typical  race 
inhabits  the  sub-Himalayan  ranges  from  Kangra  to  Upper  Assam, 
as  well  as  the  Gangetic  plain.  O.  x.  maderaspatanus  inhabits  India 
south  of  the  Gangetic  plain  with  a  western  limit  of  Mount  Aboo 
and  Kathiawar.  O.  >x.  ceylonensis  is  confined  to  Ceylon.  Resident 
everywhere. 

Along  the  Himalayas  from  Kulu  eastwards  is  found  another 
handsome  species,  the  Maroon  Oriole  (Oriolus  traillii),  the  colours 
of  which  are  sufficiently  suggested  by  its  name. 

Habits,  etc. — This  Oriole  is  a  common  bird  in  fairly  well-timbered 
but  open  country,  being  specially  partial  to  groves,  avenues  and 
gardens.  It  is  an  arboreal  species,  though  occasionally  it  descends 
to  the  ground  to  capture  insects,  on  which  it  feeds  freely,  though  its 
chief  food  must  be  considered  the  fruits  of  the  various  species  of 
wild  figs.  It  is  found  solitary  or  in  pairs,  though  the  family  parties 
keep  together  for  a  short  time  after  the  young  are  fledged. 

These  Orioles  are  very  active  creatures,  full  of  the  joy  of  life,  and 
they  delight  to  indulge  in  aerial  games,  following  each  other  from 
tree  to  tree,  darting  through  the  foliage  with  their  bright  plumage 
flashing  in  the  sun.  They  have  a  range  of  melodious  notes,  freely 
uttered  on  such  occasions,  and  the  pairs  call  to  each  other  incessantly 
yii-hu-a-yu,  answered  by  tii-hu-ee  or  te-hee.  In  addition  to  their 
varied  range  of  melodious  calls  they  sometimes  utter  harsh  cawing 
notes,  and  the  newly-fledged  young  have  a  churring  cry  rather  like 
that  of  a  young  Starling. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  April  to  the  end  of  August.  The 
nest  is  a  deep  cup,  carefully  suspended  between  two  twigs,  and  is 
composed  chiefly  of  tow-like  vegetable  fibres,  thin  slips  of  bark  and 
similar  materials  ;  externally  it  is  decorated  with  scraps  of  lichen  and 
bark,  and  there  is  a  lining  of  fine  grass  or  fine  twigs  of  tamarisk.  It 
is  suspended  near  the  end  of  a  bough  at  heights  of  20  to  35  feet 
above  the  ground. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  three  eggs,  but  two  to  four  are 
found.  The  egg  is  a  somewhat  elongated  oval,  fine  in  texture  and 
moderately  glossy.  The  ground-colour  varies  from  creamy-  or 

N 


194  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

pinkish-white  to  pale  salmon-colour.  The  markings  consist  of 
spots  and  streaks  of  dark  brown  and  inky-purple,  sparingly 
distributed,  and  generally  towards  the  broad  end ;  some  of  the 
spots  are  surrounded  by  a  reddish- pink  cloud. 

The  average  size  of  the  egg  is  about  i- 14  by  0*82  inches. 


THE    INDIAN    CRACKLE 
GRACULA  RELIGIOSA  Linnaeus 

Description. — Length  10  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  whole  plumage 
black  glossed  with  green  and  purple,  a  patch  of  white  in  the  base  of 
the  wing-quills. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  orange-red  with  a  yellow  tip  ;  wattles  and  facial 
skin  bright  yellow  ;  legs  orange-yellow,  claws  blackish-brown. 

The  sides  of  the  face  and  the  nape  are  ornamented  with  bare 
fleshy  wattles  which  differ  in  shape  in  the  various  races. 

Field  Identification. — A  large  black  Mynah  with  yellow  bill  and 
legs,  yellow  wattles  behind  the  eyes  and  a  white  patch  in  the  wing. 
Noisy  and  tree-haunting,  usually  seen  in  parties  in  large  trees. 

Distribution. — A  resident  species  with  some  local  movements. 
This  Crackle  is  widely  distributed  in  India,  Ceylon,  Burma,  the  Malay 
Peninsula,  Sumatra,  Java  and  Borneo.  It  is  divided  into  several 
races  of  which  we  are  concerned  with  the  following.  G.  r.  intermedia 
is  found  at  low  elevations,  1000  to  2000  feet,  along  the  Himalayas 
from  Kumaon  eastwards,  as  well  as  in  Eastern  Bengal  and  Assam. 
In  this  form  the  wattle  ends  on  the  nape  in  a  broad  pendant  lobe ; 
the  patch  of  feathers  in  the  middle  of  the  wattle  below  the  eye  is  small 
and  narrow  and  does  not  reach  to  the  lower  edge  of  the  wattle.  G.  r. 
indica  is  found  along  the  Western  Ghats  from  North  Kanara  to  the 
extreme  south  at  ail  heights  up  to  5000  feet  and  also  in  Ceylon  in  the  low 
country.  This  is  a  smaller  bird  with  a  weaker  bill.  The  wattle  ends  in  a 
small  inconspicuous  lobe  and  then  turns  upwards  on  to  the  nape  in  a 
tongue  about  a  quarter  of  an  inch  long  ;  the  patch  of  feathers  in  the 
middle  of  the  wattle  is  rather  larger  than  in  intermedia  and  reaches  the 
bottom  edge  of  the  wattle.  G.  r.  peninsularis  is  a  connecting  link  found 
in  Sambalpur  and  in  the  Northern  Circars  from  Gumsoor  to  Bastar. 
From  indica  it  is  immediately  distinguished  by  the  absence  of  the  tongue 
of  wattle  from  the  nape  to  the  crown.  It  is  smaller  than  intermedia 
with  a  finer  and  shorter  bill.  G.  r.  andamanensis  which  is  common 
in  the  Andamans  and  Nicobars  used  to  be  exported  to  Calcutta  in 
large  numbers  as  cage  birds. 


THE    INDIAN    CRACKLE  195 

G.  r.  ptilogenys,  which  has  no  wattle  on  the  side  of  the  face,  only 
a  long  pendant  lobe  on  either  side  of  the  neck,  is  an  inhabitant  of 
the  hill  zone  in  Ceylon.  Owing  to  the  destruction  of  forests  it  is  now 
also  in  the  low  country  alongside  G.  t.  indica. 

Habits,  etc. — This  Crackle  is  a  tree-haunting  species  found  in  all 
types  of  forest,  whether  evergreen  or  deciduous,  in  the  shade  trees 
of  coffee  and  other  plantations  and  in  trees  near  cultivation.  Out  of 
the  breeding  season  it  is  found  in  small  parties  and  flocks  which 
keep  very  largely  to  the  tops  of  the  trees  unless  curiosity  brings  them 
to  the  lower  boughs  to  investigate  some  local  movement  or  phenomenon. 


FIG.  27  —  Indian  Crackle 


They  do  also  occasionally  visit  the  ground  and  there  they  progress 
not  by  walking  like  other  Mynahs  and  Starlings  but  by  Sparrow-like 
hops.  The  flight  is  straight  and  powerful.  The  chief  characteristic 
of  these  Crackles  is,  however,  their  voices  ;  they  are  very  noisy,  using 
a  great  variety  of  notes,  some  melodious,  some  wheezing  and  some 
harsh  and  shrieking.  They  are  first-rate  mimics,  too,  and  in  captivity 
can  be  easily  taught  to  talk,  so  that,  with  their  tame  and  confident 
demeanour,  they  make  favourite  cage-birds  and  are  to  be  found  in 
all  the  good  bird  markets. 

The  food  consists  of  insects,  fruits  and  berries  collected  upon  the 
trees,  but  termites  are  captured  on  the  wing.  This  species  is  very 
partial  to  the  nectar  obtainable  from  the  flowers  of  trees  like  Bombax, 
Erythrina  and  Grevillia  and  in  such  trees  will  be  found  in  loose 
association  with  Hornbills,  Barbets  and  Green  Pigeons. 

The  breeding  season  is  mainly  from  February  to  May  but  a  few 
nests  may  be  found  later  until  October.  The  nest  is  a  miscellaneous 
collection,  sometimes  very  small,  of  grass,  feathers,  dirt  and  touchwood 
in  the  bottom  of  a  hole  in  a  tree  from  10  to  40  feet  from  the  ground. 
The  tree  chosen  is  by  preference  a  dead  one,  too  rotten  and  unsafe 
for  a  man  to  climb,  and  it  is  usually  in  open  ground  either  in  a  clearing 


ig6          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

in  a  forest  or  in  cultivation.  The  nest  hole  is  generally  in  the  trunk 
and  may  be  excavated  by  the  Crackle  itself. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  or  three  eggs.  In  shape  these  are 
very  regular  ovals,  the  shell  being  very  close  and  fine  but  with  little 
gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  a  delicate  pale  sea-green  or  greenish- 
blue,  more  or  less  profusely  spotted  and  splashed  with  pale  purple, 
purplish-brown  and  chocolate-brown. 

The  size  of  the  egg  is  rather  variable,  but  it  averages  about  1-30 
by  0-90  inches. 


THE    ROSY    PASTOR 

PASTOR  ROSEUS  (Linnaeus) 

Description. — Length  9  inches.  Sexes  alike,  except  that  the 
female  is  duller  and  with  a  shorter  crest.  The  whole  head,  long  bushy 
crest,  throat,  upper  breast,  wings,  and  tail  glossy  black,  the  feathers 
lightly  tipped  with  buff ;  thighs,  a  patch  on  each  flank  and  under  the 
tail  black  tipped  with  white  ;  remainder  of  the  plumage  rose-colour. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  pink  with  the  basal  half  of  the  lower  mandible 
black ;  legs  pink. 

Field  Identification. — A  handsome  crested  bird,  rose-pink  with 
black  head,  wings  and  tail ;  found  in  flocks  which  behave  like  and 
in  the  distance  look  like  flocks  of  Common  Starlings  ;  very  abundant ; 
the  flocks  feed  on  the  ground  and  perch  in  trees. 

Distribution. — The  Rosy  Pastor  breeds  through  a  wide  area  in 
South-eastern  Europe,  occasionally  as  far  west  as  Italy  and  Hungary  ;> 
and  in  Asia  from  Asia  Minor  to  Turkestan.  It  winters  in  India,  and 
wanders  also  irregularly  through  the  greater  part  of  Europe.  In 
India  it  is  found  as  a  winter  visitor  through  the  whole  of  the  plains 
to  as  far  east  as  Manbhoom  in  Bihar,  being  especially  abundant  in 
the  north-west.  It  arrives  early  in  July  and  leaves  about  May,  being 
absent  as  a  species,  therefore,  for  a  very  short  time,  though  doubt- 
less the  latest  birds  to  depart  are  far  from  being  the  earliest  to 
return. 

The  Spotted-wing  Stare  (Psaroglossa  spilopterd)  found  along  the 
base  of  the  Himalayas  is  common  in  Assam.  The  silvery  upper  parts 
with  brown  scale  marking,  dark  chestnut  throat,  bright  rufous  under 
parts  and  white  spot  in  the  wing  are  distinctive. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Rosy  Pastor  greatly  resembles  the  Common 
Starling  in  its  habits  while  in  winter  quarters  in  India.  It  collects  in 
flocks  which  feed  on  fruit  and  berries,  grubs,  insects,  grasshoppers, 
and  locusts  (being  particularly  useful  in  the  destruction  of  the  last) 


THE    ROSY    PASTOR 


197 


in  every  type  of  open  country,  though  cultivation  and  grassy  lands 
are  chiefly  preferred.  These  flocks  associate  with  the  flocks  of 
Common  Starlings  and  Mynahs,  roosting  and  feeding  in  company 
with  them,  though  as  a  rule  the  three  species  do  not  join  into  a 
common  flock ;  and  these  flocks  may  be  seen  flighting  between  the 
roosting  places  and  feeding  grounds  in  the  morning  and  evening  very 
regularly.  When  light  and  distance  do  not  allow  of  the  distinguishing 
of  colour  it  is  impossible  to  recognise  apart  the  flocks  of  Starlings 
and  Pastors,  the  build,  size  and  flight  of  the  two  species  being 
identical.  Pastors  feed  largely  on  the  ground,  and  when  a  field  of 


FIG.  28 — Rosy  Pastor     (i  nat.  size) 

grass  is  being  irrigated  a  pink  and  black  cloud  of  these  birds  will 
often  be  seen  in  pursuit  of  the  flooded-out  insect  life,  quarrelling 
and  chattering  and  jumping  into  the  air  as  they  move  along. 

On  their  first  arrival  numbers  of  the  birds  are  in  the  brown 
juvenile  plumage,  and  at  all  seasons  the  flocks  contain  not  fully  adult 
birds,  whose  plumage  is  sullied  and  dull  in  tint. 

From  March  onwards  the  birds  are  affected  by  the  approach  of 
the  breeding  season  (as  the  state  of  their  internal  organs  testifies), 
and  the  flocks  spend  miich  of  their  time  in  tall  trees,  enjoying  the 
sun  and  singing  a  typical  Starling  song,  a  jumble  of  discordant 
grating  noises  mixed  with  some  melodious  warbling  notes.  At  this 
season'  they  become  very  fat  in  preparation  for  migrating  and  are 
eagerly  pursued  by  native  sportsmen,  whose  aim  is  to  secure  as  many 
as  possible  with  a  single  shot. 

N2 


ig8          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

The  breeding  season  in  Europe  and  Asia  is  in  May  and  June. 
The  birds  breed  in  huge  colonies  on  rocky  ground  or  in  old  ruins, 
wherever  they  can  find  a  sufficiency  of  holes  in  which  to  place  the 
untidy  masses  of  grass,  twigs  and  straw  which  form  the  nests  ;  the 
egg  cavity  is  lined  with  roots  and  feathers.  Such  breeding  colonies 
move  about  in  the  most  capricious  manner,  occupying  a  suitable 
locality  one  year  and  abandoning  it  the  next,  their  -movements  being 
probably  dependent  on  the  food-supply. 

The  clutch  consists  usually  of  five  or  six  eggs.  These  are  Very 
pale  bluish-white,  unmarked,  similar  to  but  paler  and  more  glossy 
than  those  of  the  Common  Starling.  In  shape  they  are  rather 
pointed  ovals,  hard  in  texture  with  minute  pores. 

They  measure  about  i- 10  by  0-80  inches. 


THE    STARLING 

STURNUS  VULGARIS  Linnaeus 
(Plate  viii,  Fig.  3,  opposite  page  154) 

Description. — Length  9  inches.  Sexes  alike,  except  that  the 
female  is  generally  duller  and  more  spotted.  Winter  plumage : 
Black,  the  feathers  lightly  tipped  with  buff ;  wings  and  tail  brown, 
edged  with  velvety  black.  The  whole  plumage  is  irridescent,  with  a 
high  gloss  of  red,  purple,  green,  and  blue.  The  feathers  of  the 
head,  neck  and  breast  are  developed  into  hackles.  In  summer  the 
buff  tips  wear  off,  leaving  the  plumage  more  completely  black. 

Iris  :  male  dark  brown,  female  pale  yellow ;  bill  brown,  base  of 
lower  mandible  steely  or  yellowish-horn,  in  breeding  plumage  lemon- 
yellow  ;  legs  reddish-brown,  claws  darker. 

Field  Identification. — Gregarious,  and  collecting  in  large  flocks  in 
winter,  which  feed  on  the  ground  in  cultivation  and  perch  in  trees. 
A  glossy  black  bird,  looking  rather  as  if  oiled,  and  more  or  less  spotted 
finely  with  buff. 

Distribution. — The  Starling  is  a  bird  of  very  wide  distribution  in 
Europe,  Asia  and  Africa,  the  typical  race  being  one  of  the  best 
known  of  English  birds.  It  is  divided  into  a  number  of  closely 
allied  forms,  whose  differences  lie  in  the  distribution  of  the  colours 
of  the  brilliant  gloss  which  gives  the  bird  a  curious  highly-oiled 
appearance.  The  distinctions  are  small,  but  must  be  recognised  as 
they  are  correlated  with  distinct  breeding  areas.  The  winter  ranges 
of  several  forms,  however,  overlap,  with  the  result,  as  the  birds  are 
highly  gregarious,  that  several  forms  may  then  often  be  found  in  one 
flock,  a  fact  which  causes  the  uninitiated  to  believe  that  the 


THE    STARLING  199 

differences  exhibited  by  different  specimens  are  purely  due  to 
individual  variation. 

The  identification  of  Starlings  is  normally  a  matter  for  the 
expert,  and  many  intermediate  specimens  occur  which  cannot  be 
definitely  attributed  to  any  particular  form ;  while  no  two  authorities 
agree  on  the  number  of  forms  to  be  recognised.  But  for  general 
purposes  the  majority  of  Starlings  met  with  in  India  belong  to  four 
races.  They  may  be  distinguished  as  follows  (the  colours  refer  to 
the  gloss  ;  the  wing  is  measured  in  millimetres  closed  from  the  bend 
of  the  shoulder  to  the  tip  of  the  feathers) : 

S.  v.  minor. — Small  form,  wing  110-118  mm.  ;  head,  throat  and 
ear-coverts  green  ;  mantle  and  rump  reddish-purple. 

S.  v.  humii. — Medium  form,  wing  119-125  mm.  ;  head  deep 
purplish-blue  ;  reddish-purple  on  the  throat,  chin  and  hind  neck ; 
ear-coverts  deep  metallic  green ;  mantle  coppery-red  to  bronze ; 
rump  bronze-green. 

S.  v.  poltaratskyi. — Large  form,  wing  124-135  mm. ;  head,  throat 
and  ear-coverts  purple  ;  mantle  and  rump  green. 

S.  v.  porphyronotus. — Large  form,  wing  125-137  mm.  ;  head  and 
throat  green,  ear-coverts  more  or  less  purple  ;  mantle  and  rump 
red-purple. 

S.  v.  minor  is  a  local  and  resident  form  in  Sind.  S.  v.  humii  is 
the  breeding  bird  of  the  Valley  of  Kashmir ;  in  winter  it  appears  in 
the  bordering  districts  of  the  Punjab.  S.  v.  porphyronotus  breeds  at 
Yarkand  and  neighbouring  areas,  and  in  winter  visits  Afghanistan, 
Kashmir,  Punjab,  Sind,  and  the  United  Provinces.  S.  v.  poltaratskyi 
breeds  in  Siberia,  and  in  winter  extends  through  the  plains  of  India 
from  the  north-west  to  Bengal  and  south  to  Baroda,  being  the 
commonest  of  the  Indian  Starlings. 

In  the  plains  of  India  these  Starlings  may  be  looked  for  from 
October  to  March,  but  occasional  parties  occur  a  little  earlier  and  later. 

Habits,  etc.— Apart  from  the  fact  that  the  little  Sind  Starling 
may  be  recognised  by  its  smaller  size,  and  both  it  and  S.  v.  humii 
can  be  recognised  by  inference  on  their  breeding  grounds,  it  is  quite 
impossible  to  distinguish  the  various  forms  of  Starling  in  India  in 
winter  until  they  have  been  shot.  They  are  highly  gregarious,  and 
collect  into  common  flocks  which  feed  in  cultivation  on  the  open 
plains,  sometimes  also  in  company  with  Mynahs  and  Rosy  Pastors. 
The  chief  characteristic  of  the  flocks  is  hurry ;  they  feed  on  the 
ground,  digging  their  bills  into  the  crevices  of  the  soil  and  extracting 
the  various  harmful  grubs  and  insects  on  which  they  feed ;  and  all 
the  time  the  flock  advances  with  a  bustle  and  hurry,  not  hopping 
but  with  a  quick  purposeful  step,  the  birds  in  the  rear  frequently 
flying  over  to  settle  in  front  of  the  leaders.  Fruit,  berries  and  grain 
are  also  eaten. 


300          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

When  disturbed  the  flock  flies  up  and  settles  on  the  tops  of 
trees,  where,  if  no  danger  threatens,  the  birds  at  once  commence  to 
warble  in  the  sunlight  and  preen  their  feathers,  soon  flying  down 
again  to  continue  their  progress  on  the  ground.  The  flight  is  swift 
and  strong,  short,  sharp  beats  of  the  wings  alternating  with  periods 
of  gliding,  the  flocks  flying  in  close  order  as  if  drilled,  the  mass 
wheeling  and  turning  with  remarkable  precision.  Some  of  the 
flocks  are  very  large  and  by  their  flight  and  density  can  be  identified 
from  a  considerable  distance. 

The  breeding  season  of  S.  v.  humii  in  Kashmir  is  in  April  and 
May.  The  males  then  indulge  in  the  peculiar  wheezy,  squeaky  song, 
sitting  on  a  roof  or  top  of  a  tree  in  an  exposed  position,  flirting  the 
wings  uneasily  at  intervals  as  they  sing. 

The  Starling  builds  in  holes  of  trees  (particularly  affecting  pollarded 
willows),  in  river-banks  and  in  buildings,  constructing  a  loose  nest  of 
grass  roots  with  a  few  feathers.  The  clutch  consists  of  five  or  six 
eggs.  These  are  somewhat  elongated  in  shape,  a  good  deal  compressed 
towards  the  short  end.  The  shells  are  strong  and  glossy,  with  the 
surface  a  good  deal  pitted.  In  colour  they  are  a  very  uniform  pale 
sea-green-blue. 

The  average  measurement  is  1-13  by  0-83  inches. 


THE  GREY-HEADED  MYNAH 

STURNIA  MALABARICA  (Gmelin) 

Description.—  Length  8  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  whole  upper 
plumage  dark  grey,  the  feathers  of  the  head  and  neck  long  and 
pointed  with  whitish  shafts  giving  a  hoary  appearance  ;  wing  blackish, 
all  but  the  flight-feathers,  which  are  merely  so  tipped,  edged  with 
silvery-grey  ;  tail  blackish  tipped  broadly  with  ferruginous,  the  central 
pair  of  feathers  silvery-grey ;  entire  lower  plumage  rufous,  palest 
towards  the  chin  and  throat  which  are  streaked  with  whitish-grey  and 
deepest  towards  the  tail. 

Iris  light  blue  ;  bill  blue  at  base,  green  in  the  middle,  and  yellow 
at  the  tip  ;  legs  brownish-yellow. 

Field  Identification. — A  rather  silvery-looking  bird  with  finely- 
hackled  head  and  neck,  rufous  under  parts,  and  dark  wings  and  tail. 
In  chattering  flocks  on  the  tops  of  trees. 

Distribution. — A  widely-distributed  species  in  the  plains  of  India, 
extending  eastwards  to  Siam,  the  Malay  Peninsula,  and  the  islands  of 
the  Bay  of  Bengal.  It  is  divided  into  several  races,  of  which  we  are 
concerned  with  two.  The  typical  form  is  found  east  of  a  line  drawn 


THE    GREY-HEADED    MYNAH  201 

approximately  from  Mount  Aboo  to  Dehra  Dun,  ascending  the 
Himalayas  to  a  height  of  about  5000  feet.  S.  m.  blythii,  which  has 
the  whole  head  white,  is  found  down  the  west  coast  of  India  from 
Belgaum  to  Travancore.  This  species  appears  to  be  locally  migratory 
and  at  Ranchi  and  in  South-west  Bengal  is  a  common  winter  visitor, 
but  there  is  not  much  information  regarding  other  parts  of  the  country. 

Habits,  etc. — This  little  Mynah  is  more  purely  arboreal  than  most 
species  of  Mynah  and  Starling,  and  is  shyer  and  more  difficult  to 
observe.  It  is  usually  found  in  parties  and  small  flocks  which  frequent 
the  tops  of  trees  and  indulge  in  a  good  deal  of  squabbling  and 
chasing  about  from  branch  to  branch  especially  when  the  attraction 
is  the  flowers  of  the  coral-tree  or  the  silk-cotton  tree.  From  these 
they  extract  the  nectar  and  they  are  also  fond  of  the  figs  of  the  banyan 
and  peepul  trees,  the  berries  of  lantana  scrub  and  a  number  of  other 
fruits  as  well  as  insects.  At  times  the  flocks  descend  and  feed  on  the 
ground.  The  usual  note  is  a  sort  of  chatter,  but  there  is  also  quite  a 
pleasant  song. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  April  to  June. 

The  nest  is  built  in  a  hole  of  a  tree,  either  dead  or  living,  at  any 
height  from  20  to  50  feet  from  the  ground,  and  there  is  rather  a 
preference  for  trees  growing  in  open  patches  cleared  in  the  midst  of 
forest.  Natural  hollows  and  old  Barbet's  nest  holes  are  used,  but  in 
some  instances  the  birds  enlarge  holes  for  themselves  by  pecking 
away  decayed  wood  round  an  existing  small  hole.  The  nest  is  a 
small  pad  of  grass  or  green  leaves. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  to  five  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  moderately  elongated  oval,  rather  pointed  towards 
the  small  end.  The  shell  is  fine  and  delicate  with  a  distinct  gloss. 
In  colour  it  is  a  very  delicate  pale  sea-green  without  markings. 

The  average  size  is  about  0-95  by  0-70  inches. 


THE    BRAHMINY    MYNAH 

TEMENUCHUS  PAGODARUM  (Gmelin) 
(Plate  viii,  Fig.  5,  opposite  page  154) 

Description. — Length  8  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Top  of  the  head, 
including  a  long  bushy  crest,  black ;  the  sides  of  the  head,  the  whole 
of  the  neck  and  the  entire  lower  plumage  rich  buff,  except  the  thighs 
and  a  patch  under  the  tail  which  are  white  ;  the  feathers  of  the  neck, 
throat  and  breast  are  elongated  into  hackles.  The  remainder  of  the 
upper  plumage  grey  except  the  outer  flight-feathers  which  are  black ; 
tail  rounded,  brown,  all  but  the  central  pair  of  feathers  broadly  tipped 
with  white. 


aoz          POPULAR   HANDBOOK    OF   INDIAN   BIRDS 

Iris  greenish-white  ;  bill  blue  at  the  base,  greenish  in  the  middle, 
yellow  at  the  tip  ;  legs  bright  yellow. 

Field  Identification. — Common  plains  species.  A  rather  small, 
sprightly  bird,  grey  above,  warm  buff  below,  with  the  top  of  the  head 
black  and  crested  ;  the  rounded  tail  is  conspicuously  edged  with 
white  in  flight. 

Distribution. — This  is  a  familiar  bird  throughout  India  and 
Ceylon,  extending  on  the  west  to  the  Valley  of  the  Indus  and  on  the 
east  to  the  longitude  of  Calcutta.  It  is  locally  common  everywhere 
except  in  the  more  arid  and  barren  portions  of  the  Punjab,  Sind, 
and  North-west  Frontier  Province,  and  in  the  more  humid  and  over- 
grown localities  of  Lower  Bengal.  In  the  Outer  Himalayas  it  extends 
ordinarily  as  a  summer  visitor  up  to  4500  feet,  but  in  Gilgit  and 
Chitral  it  is  common  even  to  higher  elevations.  In  the  main  a  resident 
species,  but  also  locally  migratory. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Brahminy  Mynah  is  partial  to  open,  well- 
cultivated  localities  with  plenty  of  trees,  and  is  tame  and  familiar  in 
its  habits,  neither  avoiding  nor  seeking  the  neighbourhood  of  man, 
but  rather  being  indifferent  to  his  existence.  It  feeds  for  the  most 
part  on  the  ground,  often  in  company  with  other  species  of  Mynahs 
and  Starlings,  retiring  when  sated  to  the  trees  in  which  it  normally 
lives.  It  is  found  singty,  in  pairs  and  in  small  parties.  It  is  quite  a 
good  songster,  with  a  pleasant  warbling  song  and  makes  a  charming 
pet ;  it  is  also  a  good  mimic,  learning  the  songs  of  other  birds  with 
ease. 

Under  the  name  of  "  Pawi  "  or  "  Papaya  "  it  is  familiar  to  Indians 
and  comes  a  good  deal  into  their  folk-lore. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  May  to  August,  but  in  Upper  India 
the  majority  of  eggs  are  laid  in  June. 

The  nest  is  placed  in  holes  in  trees  at  heights  of  from  15  to  30 
feet  above  the  ground,  and  also  in  Southern  India  in  holes  in  the 
roofs  of  buildings.  The  cavity  is  roughly  lined  with  feathers  and  dry 
grass,  or  dead  leaves  and  similar  soft  materials.  Nest-boxes  affixed 
to  trees  are  much  favoured  by  this  species. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  to  five  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  rather  elongated  oval,  fine  and  hard  in  texture,  and 
rather  glossy ;  in  colour  it  varies  from  very  pale  bluish-white  to  pale 
blue  or  greenish-blue.  There  are  no  markings. 

In  size  the  eggs  average  about  0-97  by  0*75  inches. 


THE    COMMON    MYNAH  203 


THE    COMMON    MYNAH 

ACRIDOTHERES  TRiSTis  (Linnaeus) 
(Introduction,  p.  xxviii) 

Description. — Length  8  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Whole  head, 
neck,  and  upper  breast  black ;  remainder  of  body  plumage  rich 
vinous-brown,  darker  above  and  paling  into  whitish  on  the  lower 
abdomen.  Outer  flight-feathers  dark  brown,  with  a  large  white  patch 
at  their  base  ;  tail  strongly  rounded,  blackish,  all  but  the  central  pair 
of  feathers  broadly  tipped  with  white. 

Iris  reddish-brown,  flecked  with  white  ;  bill  and  a  fleshy  wattle 
below  and  behind  the  eye  bright  yellow ;  legs  yellow,  claws 
horny. 

Field  Identification. — One  of  the  most  general  and  abundant  birds 
of  India  ;  to  be  seen  walking  about  in  pairs  on  the  ground  everywhere 
in  the  plains.  Rich  vinous-brown  in  colour,  with  a  conspicuous 
yellow  face-wattle  ;  in  flight  the  rounded  white-edged  tail  and  a  large 
white  patch  in  the  wings  are  conspicuous. 

Distribution. — The  whole  of  the  Indian  Empire  except  Northern 
Kashmir,  Baluchistan  and  Tenasserim,  south  of  Mergui.  A  darker 
form  found  in  Ceylon  is  separated  under  the  name  of  A.  t.  melanosternus. 
The  Mynah  occurs  in  the  Himalayas  up  to  8000  feet  and  is  a  strictly 
resident  species. 

Of  late  years  this  species  has  been  introduced  into  South  Africa, 
Mauritius,  New  Zealand,  and  other  countries,  but  not  with  happy 
results,  as  it  has  proved  destructive  to  more  interesting  indigenous 
species. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Mynah  shares  with  the  House-Crow  the  dis- 
tinction of  being  the  commonest  and  best-known  bird  in  India,  being 
found  wherever  man  is  found,  in  populous  city  or  in  lonely  jungle 
village.  But  the  House-Crow,  with  all  his  audacity,  has  an  uneasy 
conscience  and  is  ever  in  expectation  of  the  moment  when  his  sins 
will  find  him  out.  The  Mynah,  on  the  other  hand,  has  no  such 
feelings.  He  is  always  perky  and  self-confident,  secure  in  his 
occupation  of  some  particular  beat  and  ready  to  wage  war  on  all 
who  dispute  it  with  him  ;  and  the  appearance  of  a  snake,  mongoose 
or  bird  of  prey  is  sufficient  to  collect  all  the  Mynahs  of  the  neighbour- 
hood, whose  harsh  scolding  reveals  the  presence  of  the  intruder  and  is 
always  worth  investigation  ;  many  a  dangerous  snake  has  lost  its  life 
through  the  information  given  to  man  by  the  Mynahs. 

Normally  these  birds  live  in  pairs  and  there  is  a  very  obvious 
affection  between  them.  They  feed  together  on  the  ground,  striding 
along  with  rapid,  determined  paces,  stopping  occasionally  to  preen  each 


zo4          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

other's  feathers  or  to  indulge  in  a  few  quaint  remarks  or  gesticulations 
expressive  of  extreme  self-satisfaction.  The  voice  is  a  strange 
mixture  of  harsh  gurglings  and  liquid  notes,  keeky  -  keeky  -  keeky, 
churr  -  churr,  kok  -  kok  -  kok,  and  the  last  notes  are  invariably 
accompanied  by  a  quaint,  stiff  bobbing  of  the  head,  generally  close 
in  front  of  the  mate.  If  disturbed  when  feeding  on  the  ground 
the  birds  rise  with  a  querulous  note  of  alarm. 

Several  often  collect  into  small  parties,  and  at  the  roost  these 
parties  collect  into  large  flocks  which  sleep  in  groves  of  trees  after 
the  most  noisy  and  quarrelsome  proceedings  as  they  take  up  their 
places  for  the  night.  At  intervals  during  darkness  short  bursts 
of  chattering  are  to  be  heard.  Such  favourite  roosting  places  are 
shared  with  House-Crows  and  Green  Parrakeets,  often,  too,  with 
Bank  Mynahs  and  Starlings. 

The  Mynah  is  very  omnivorous  in  its  tastes  ;  I  have  known  them 
carry  away  the  carcasses  of  small  birds  that  I  had  skinned  ;  house 
scraps,  fruit,  grain,  earthworms,  insects  of  all  kinds,  grasshoppers, 
crickets,  caterpillars,  and  grubs  are  all  eagerly  devoured.  Flocks 
of  grazing  cattle  and  the  various  agricultural  operations  are  invariably 
attended  by  a  pair  of  these  birds  ;  and  their  services  in  the  destruction 
of  locusts  and  grasshoppers  must  be  very  valuable  to  the  Zamindar. 

The  normal  breeding  season  lasts  from  June  to  August,  and  the 
nests  being  usually  in  a  very  hot  position  the  birds  leave  much  of 
the  incubation  of  the  eggs  to  the  temperature  of  the  air.  They 
themselves  feel  the  heat  a  good  deal  and  may  constantly  be  seen 
walking  about,  with  their  beaks  gaping. 

The  nest  is  built  in  roofs  of  houses,  and  in  holes  in  walls,  trees 
and  wells ;  and  the  birds  readily  adopt  nest-boxes  or  chatties  which 
may  be  hung  up  for  their  use.  Occasionally  the  old  nest  of  a  Kite 
or  Crow  or  squirrel  is  adopted  and  relined,  and  instances  are  on 
record  of  their  building  nests  in  a  creeper  or  on  the  bough  of  a  tree. 

The  nest  is  a  shapeless  and  often  large  mass  of  miscellaneous 
material,  straw,  feathers,  fine  twigs,  bits  of  cotton,  strips  of  rag,  pieces 
of  rope  and  string,  snakes'  sloughs,  and  the  like. 

Three  to  six  eggs  are  laid,  but  the  normal  clutch  consists  of 
four  or  five.  They  are  rather  long,  oval,  pear-shaped  eggs,  hard  and 
glossy  in  texture,  varying  in  colour  from  pale  blue  to  pure  sky-blue 
or  greenish-blue,  without  markings.  The  small  black  spots  that  are 
sometimes  found  on  these  eggs  are  the  work  of  parasites. 

They  measure  about  1-20  by  0-86  inches. 


THE    BANK    MYNAH  205 

THE    BANK    MYNAH 

ACRIDOTHERES   GINGINIANUS   (Latham) 

Description. — Length  9  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  top  and  sides 
of  the  head  black  ;  the  whole  body  plumage  slaty-grey  except  the 
centre  of  the  abdomen  which  is  pinkish-buff ;  wing  black,  a  patch  of 
pinkish-buff  at  the  base  of  the  outer  flight-feathers  ;  tail  strongly 
rounded,  black  tipped  with  buff. 

Iris  deep  maroon-red  ;  bill  gamboge  ;  a  naked  wattle  beneath  and 
behind  the  eye  brick-red  ;  legs  yellow. 

Field  Identification. — Plains  of  Northern  and  Central  India ; 
gregarious ;  strongly  resembles  the  Common  Mynah  in  demeanour 
and  general  effect,  but  the  wattle  is  red  instead  of  yellow,  the  body 
plumage  slaty-grey  instead  of  vinous-brown,  and  the  wing-patch  and 
tips  of  the  tail-feathers  pinkish-buff  instead  of  white. 

Distribution. — A  purely  Indian  species,  found  throughout  the 
whole  of  the  northern  half  of  India  from  the  Himalayas  southwards 
to  a  line  between  Bombay  and  Orissa,  and  from  the  North-west 
Frontier  Province  and  Sind  to  Eastern  Bengal.  Normally  a  plains 
species  it  ascends  the  Outer  Himalayas  locally,  venturing  into  the 
sheltered  valleys.  A  resident  species,  but  wandering  locally  in 
obedience  to  the  food-supply. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Bank  Mynah  is  often  found  in  company  with 
the  Common  Mynah  and  is  very  similar  to  it  in  habits,  but  differs 
in  one  or  two  important  particulars.  Although  sometimes  found 
in  crowded  market-places,  scavenging  on  the  ground  amongst  cattle 
and  people,  or  wandering  about  busy  station  platforms,  it  is  more 
a  bird  of  cultivation  and  the  open  country-side,  and  is  in  particular 
addicted  to  the  neighbourhood  of  water,  feeding  about  the  banks  of 
rivers,  in  old  water-logged  brick-kilns  and  borrow-pits.  It  is  also 
much  more  social  in  its  habits,  not  merely  flying,  feeding  and  roosting 
in  flocks,  but  also  breeding  in  very  definite  colonies  with  a  breeding 
economy  quite  different  to  that  of  the  common  species. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  the  middle  of  April  to  the  middle 
of  July,  but  most  eggs  will  be  found  in  May. 

It  builds  almost  exclusively  in  earthen  banks  and  cliffs,  in  holes 
which  it  excavates  for  itself,  always  in  the  vicinity  of  water  and 
generally  over  running  water.  A  few  small  colonies  also  breed 
below  the  surface  of  the  ground  in  the  sides  of  wells,  in  holes  in 
the  brickwork  or  in  tunnels  driven  into  the  sandy  soil.  The  nest 
chamber  is  situated  at  the  end  of  a  tunnel  some  three  inches  in 
diameter  and  anything  up  to  seven  feet  in  length,  and  these  tunnels 
usually  twist  about  in  all  directions  and  also  communicate  with  each 


206          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

other,  so  that  a  large  colony  may  be  a  regular  warren.  In  the  nest 
chamber  a  loose  nest  of  feathers,  roots  and  grass  is  constructed,  and 
it  also  often  contains  pieces  of  snake's  slough. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  four  eggs,  but  five  are  often  laid. 

The  eggs  are  short  and  broad  ovals,  hard  in  texture  with  a  high 
gloss.  They  are  unmarked,  of  various  shades  of  very  pale  sky-blue 
or  greenish-blue,  generally  slightly  darker  in  tint  than  the  eggs  of 
the  Common  Mynah. 

In  size  they  average  about  1*05  by  0*82  inches. 


THE    JUNGLE    MYNAH 

^ETHIOPSAR  FUSCUS  (Wagler) 

Description. — Length  9  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Top  and  sides  of 
the  head  black  ;  remainder  of  upper  plumage  ruddy  cinerous-brown  ; 
wings  black  with  a  large  white  patch  at  the  base  of  the  outer  flight- 
feathers  ;  tail  broadly  rounded,  the  feathers  tipped  with  white  ;  lower 
plumage  dark  ashy-brown,  whitish  under  the  tail. 

Iris  bright  yellow  or  blue  ;  bill  basal  half  bluish-black,  remainder 
orange-yellow ;  legs  orange-yellow. 

There  is  a  curious  erect  tuft  of  feathers  above  the  nostrils. 

Field  Identification. — A  shy  forest  Mynah,  chiefly  found  in  hill 
ranges  ;  to  be  recognised  from  the  Common  and  Bank  Mynahs  by 
the  darker  plumage,  the  absence  of  a  bare  face  wattle  and  by  the  tuft 
of  erect  feathers  above  the  nostrils. 

Distribution. — The  Jungle  Mynah  is  widely  spread  in  the 
Himalayas,  in  portions  of  India  and  through  Assam  and  Burma 
to  Siam  and  the  Malay  Peninsula.  It  is  divided  into  races,  of  which ' 
we  are  only  concerned  with  two. 

The  typical  race,  slate-coloured  above  with  a  yellow  iris,  breeds 
throughout  the  Himalayas,  from  Hazara  eastwards,  from  the  foot- 
hills up  to  about  7000  feet.  It  is  also  found  in  Lower  Bengal  and 
the  Chota  Nagpur  area  to  Bundelkund  and  Raipur. 

A  browner  race,  IE.  /.  mahrattensis,  in  which  the  iris  is  grey, 
bluish-white  or  pale  blue,  occurs  in  the  Shevaroys  and  down  the 
Western  Coast,  chiefly  on  the  Ghats,  from  Ahmedabad  to  Cape 
Comorin.  Though  abundant  in  many  localities  it  is  rather  a  local 
species.  A  resident  bird  in  the  main,  but  also  a  local  migrant. 

Habits,  etc. — As  its  name  denotes,  this  Mynah  is  properly  a  bird 
of  the  forest,  though  it  often  associates  with  the  Common  Mynah, 
and  frequents  the  neighbourhood  of  houses.  Except  when  actually 
paired  for  breeding  it  is  found  in  parties  and  flocks  that  feed  mostly 
on  the  ground,  taking  to  the  trees  when  disturbed.  In  flight,  habits, 
gait,  and  behaviour  it  greatly  resembles  the  Common  Mynah,  except 


THE   JUNGLE    MYNAH  207 

that  it  is  neither  so  bold  nor  such  a  scavenger,  and  it  is  probably 
mistaken  by  most  people  for  that  species. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  March  to  July,  but  most  eggs  will 
be  found  in  April. 

The  vast  majority  of  the  nests  of  this  species  are  built  in  holes 
in  trees,  generally  in  large  trees  at  a  considerable  height  from  the 
ground  ;  but  nests  may  be  found  in  holes  in  other  situations,  in  walls 
and  ruins,  in  chimneys,  and  in  the  thatch  of  old  houses.  The  nest  is 


FIG.  29 — Head  of  Jungle  Mynah     (-} -i-  nat.  size) 

merely  a  lining  to  the  hole  selected,  and  varies  in  size  and  materials, 
being  a  collection  of  fine  twigs,  dry  grass,  feathers,  moss,  wool,  and 
the  like. 

There  is  a  distinct  tendency  for  the  birds  to  nest  in  colonies. 

The  clutch  varies  from  three  to  four  eggs,  but  the  majority  of 
nests  contain  five  eggs. 

The  egg  is  in  shape  rather  a  long  oval,  usually  somewhat  pointed 
towards  the  small  end  ;  the  texture  is  hard  and  glossy.  It  varies  in 
colour  from  that  of  skim  milk  to  pale  blue  or  greenish-blue,  and 
there  are  no  markings. 

The  average  measurement  is  about  1-20  by  0-83  inches. 


THE    PIED    MYNAH 
STURNOPASTOR  CONTRA  (Linnaeus) 

Description. — Length  '  9  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  entire  head 
and  neck  black,  except  for  an  elongated  white  patch  from  the  base 
of  the  beak  through  the  eye  backwards  ;  upper  plumage,  wings  and 
tail  black  or  blackish-brown,  except  for  the  lower  rump  and  a  broad 
line  along  the  shoulders  white ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  pale 
vinaceous-grey. 


208 


POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 


Iris  yellowish-white,  eyelids  and  a  bare  patch  in  front  of  the  eye 
orange  ;  bill  basal  half  deep  orange,  remainder  white  ;  legs  yellowish- 
white,  claws  horny. 

Field  Identification. — Common  plains  species  in  cultivation.  A 
conspicuously  pied  black  and  white  bird  found  in  parties  feeding  on 
the  ground  and  flying  up  into  a  tree  when  disturbed ;  an  obvious 
Mynah  in  habits  and  bearing. 

Distribution. — The  Pied  Mynah  is  common  and  widely  distributed 
in  India  and  the  Burmese  countries  to  Java,  being  divided  into  several 
races,  of  which  two  are  found  within  our  area.  The  typical  race  is 

found  in  Eastern  Bengal 
and  Assam.  A  paler  bird, 
S.  c.  dehrce,  is  found  in 
continental  India  east  of  a 
line  through  Ludhiana, 
Hissar  and  Sehore,  extend- 
ing down  to  Hyderabad  in 
the  Deccan  and  eastwards 
to  Western  Bengal,  Bihar 
and  Orissa.  It  is  a  resident 
species,  though  there  are 
signs  of  small  local  migra- 
tions. 

Habits,  etc.— The  Pied 
Mynah  differs  from  the 
Common  Mynah  in  the  fact 
that  it  is  a  bird  of  open 

cultivation,  never  entering  in  or  perching  on  houses,  though  it  may 
frequently  be  found  in  gardens.  Wherever  found  it  is  common, 
living  generally  in  small  parties  that  spend  their  time  hunting  over 
grassland  where  the  pied  plumage  renders  them  conspicuous.  Like 
the  Common  Mynah,  this  species  is  a  frequent  attendant  on  cattle, 
and  on  the  grazing  grounds  of  the  Northern  Circars  vast  flocks  of 
several  hundreds  collect  together. 

In  diet  it  is  undoubtedly  chiefly  insectivorous,  catching  grass- 
hoppers, crickets,  and  beetles  on  the  ground,  and  extracting  caterpillars, 
ants,  worms,  and  other  insects  from  amongst  the  roots  of  grass.  But 
it  feeds,  too,  on  fruits  and  berries,  being  very  partial  to  the  fruits 
of  the  genus  Ficus,  and  it  also  does  a  certain  amount  of  damage  to 
crops.  Like  the  Common  Mynahs,  and  indeed  often  in  company 
with  them,  the  Pied  Mynahs  roost  in  huge  vociferous  mobs  in 
groves  of  trees. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  May  to  August,  but  the  majority 
of  eggs  are  laid  in  June  and  July. 

This    species   builds   in  trees,   generally  out  in  open  fields,   at 


FIG.  30 — Pied  Mynah     (J  nat.  size) 


THE   PIED   MYNAH  209 

heights  of  10  to  30  feet  from  the  ground ;  sometimes  the  nests  are 
in  colonies,  numbers  being  placed  in  one  large  tree.  The  nest  is  a 
large  clumsy  lump  of  material,  variable  in  shape,  but  usually  domed, 
depending  for  safety  not  on  concealment  but  on  its  position  in  the 
midst  of  thorns  or  towards  the  extremity  of  a  bough ;  it  is  built 
of  straw,  grass  and  twigs,  and  roots  and  rags,  the  last  often  trailing 
in  streamers  below  the  nest.  The  egg  cavity  is  thickly  lined  with 
feathers.  Very  rarely  the  nest  is  placed  in  a  hole  in  a  tree. 

The  eggs  are  four  to  six  in  number,  but  most  clutches  consist  of 
five  eggs.  They  are  moderately  broad  ovals,  a  good  deal  pointed 
towards  the  small  end,  and  there  is  a  high  gloss.  In  colour  they  vary 
from  a  delicate  bluish- white  to  a  pure  though  somewhat  pale  sky-blue, 
the  blue  being  often  tinged  with  green.  There  are  no  markings. 

They  measure  about  i- 10  by  0-82  inches. 


THE    BAYA   WEAVER-BIRD 

PLOCEUS  PHILIPPINUS  (Linnaeus) 
(Plate  xiii,  Fig.  2,  opposite  page  264) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Male  in  breeding  plumage  :  A 
mask,  including  the  sides  of  the  head,  chin  and  throat  dark  blackish- 
brown  ;  remainder  of  the  head  and  the  breast  bright  yellow  ;  upper 
plumage  brownish-black,  the  feathers  broadly  margined  with  bright 
yellow  ;  rump  and  remainder  of  lower  plumage  fulvous  ;  wings  and 
tail  dark  brown,  edged  with  fulvous. 

Male  in  winter  plumage,  and  female  :  The  whole  upper  plumage 
is  fulvous,  streaked  with  blackish-brown,  the  streaks  dying  away  on 
the  rump  ;  wings  and  tail  dark  brown  edged  with  fulvous  ;  a  clear 
fulvous  line  over  the  eye  ;  remainder  of  plumage  clear  fulvous,  darker 
on  the  sides  of  the  head,  breast  and  flanks. 

Iris  brown ;  bill  yellowish-horn,  becoming  in  the  breeding  male 
dark  horny-brown,  yellowish  about  the  base  ;  legs  flesh-colour. 

Bill  rather  heavy  and  conical. 

Field  Identification. — Abundant  plains  bird,  found  in  flocks ; 
majority  are  fulvous  birds  streaked  heavily  with  blackish  on  the 
upper  parts,  but  males  in  the  breeding  season  have  a  conspicuous 
dark  brown  mask  emphasised  by  surrounding  yellow  ;  yellow  on  the 
breast  distinguishes  this  from  other  species  of  breeding  Weavers. 
Will  usually  be  noticed  in  connection  with  long  woven  grass  nests 
hanging  in  colonies  from  boughs  of  trees. 

Distribution. — This  Weaver  is  found  in  India,  Ceylon,  and  Burma, 
extending  eastwards  to  Siam,  the  Malay  Peninsula,  Java,  and  Sumatra* 
It  is  divided  into  several  races. 

O 


210  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

The  typical  race  is  found  throughout  Ceylon  and  the  greater 
part  of  India,  extending  in  the  north-west  to  about  the  line  of  the 
Sutlej.  In  the  Eastern  sub-Himalayas  and  Bengal  it  is  replaced  by 
P.  p.  burmanicus,  which  differs  in  the  smaller  extent  of  yellow  on 
the  throat  and  breast  and  in  Travancore  by  the  darker  P.  p.  travan- 
coreensis.  While  largely  a  resident  this  Weaver  is  also  locally  migratory. 

Habits,  etc. — As  in  the  case  of  the  Tailor-bird,  our  common 
Indian  Weaver-bird  is  known  by  its  nest  to  thousands  who  jvould 
never  recognise  the  owner  thereof.  Out  of  colour  the  parties  of 
Weavers  would  pass  with  most  people  as  parties  of  Sparrows,  and 
never  be  given  a  second  thought,  but  when  the  male  dons  his 
yellow  breeding  plumage  and  dark  mask  he  is  a  handsome  bird  and 
easily  recognised.  This  species  avoids  heavy  forest  and  is  really 
a  bird  of  open  cultivation  where  babool  trees  and  palms  stand  in 
the  midst  of  grasslands  and  arable  fields,  damp  and  well-watered 
localities  being  rather  preferred.  It  feeds  on  seeds  of  various 
kinds,  and  does  a  good  deal  of  damage  in  certain  crops,  though, 
like  the  Sparrow,  it  largely  compensates  for  this  by  the  caterpillars, 
grasshoppers,  and  various  insects  on  which  the  young  are  fed.  A 
colony  of  Weavers'  nests  is  one  of  the  most  familiar  and  typical  of 
Indian  country  scenes.  The  nests  are  long,  graceful  structures  of 
woven  grass,  retort  shaped,  with  the  mouth  of  the  retort  pointing 
downwards  to  the  ground.  These  nests  hang  in  groups  of  ten  or  a 
dozen  on  a  tree,  suspended  by  short  plaited  ropes  from  the  ends  of 
the  outer  boughs,  or  in  vacant  spaces  in  the  centre  of  the  tree,  and 
the  soft  greens  and  browns  of  the  nests,  the  rounded  swelling  lines 
of  their  construction,  contrasting  with  the  hard  yet  feathery  foliage 
of  an  acacia,  form  a  picture  of  nature  hard  to  beat.  Large  colonies 
may  consist  of  fifty  to  a  hundred  nests,  occupying  several  adjacent 
trees  ;  while  many  colonies  are  built  in  lofty  palm  trees,  hanging 
like  tassels  from  the  crown  of  leaves. 

The  nests  are  built  of  strips  of  sarpat  grass,  rice-grass,  plantain 
leaf,  coir,  jowar  leaf  or  coco-nut  fronds.  These  strips  the  bird 
prepares  for  itself  by  cutting  a  notch  in  the  side  of  a  blade  of  grass 
and  tearing  off  the  strip  above  it,  a  foot  or  two  long.  They  are  cut 
when  green,  and  new  nests  may  be  recognised  from  old  by  their 
colour,  and  the  same  difference  of  colour  betrays  old  nests  which 
have  been  repaired  and  used  again. 

The  construction  of  the  nest  has  often  been  described,  but 
Mr  Salim  Ali  appears  to  be  the  first  observer  who  has  correctly 
unravelled  the  economy  of  a  breeding  colony.  According  to  his 
account,  the  colony  is  founded  by  a  number  of  fully  adult  males  in 
breeding  condition  but  still  ui  mated.  Each  bird  selects  a  suitable 
twig  and  winds  a  number  of  strands  about  it  until  a  firm  support 
for  the  intended  nest  is  secured.  From  this  depends  a  mass  of 


THE    BAYA    WEAVER-BIRD  211 

strips  which  are  worked  up  into  a  pendant  loop  to  form  the  skeleton 
of  the  structure.  Porches  are  built  over  the  upper  part  on  each 
side,  one  developing  and  broadening  out  later  into  the  egg-chamber, 
the  other  which  is  not  so  bulgy  being  produced  into  the  entrance 
tube.  About  the  time  that  the  egg-chambers  are  complete  hen-birds 
begin  to  arrive  in  the  colony  and  though  the  various  cocks  press 
their  attentions  on  them  it  appears  that  each  hen  deliberately  makes 
choice  amongst  the  nests,  accepting  later  the  cock  whose  nest  has 
pleased  her  fancy.  Henceforth  the  female  occupies  herself  with 
making  the  interior  of  the  nest  to  her  liking  whilst  the  male 
completes  the  entrance  tunnel.  The  egg-chamber  is  left  unlined, 
but  small  pellets  of  mud  are  often  worked  into  the  walls,  a  habit  of 
which  the  original  significance  if  any  appears  to  be  lost.  As  soon 
as  the  nest  is  completed,  the  eggs  laid  and  incubation  started  by  the 
hen,  the  cock  proceeds  to  build  a  second  nest  which  in  due  course 
is  chosen  by  another  prospecting  female  and  the  whole  process  is 
repeated  till  she  too  is  safely  on  her  eggs.  If  circumstances  are 
favourable  a  third  hen  may  be  similarly  provided  for. 

It  will  be  seen  that  this  account  explains  the  fact,  often  recorded,  that 
males  are  apparently  considerably  in  excess  of  females  in  the  colonies, 
and  also  accounts  for  the  unfinished  "  cock- nests, "  second  or  third 
nests  abandoned  by  males  in  which  the  reproductive  fervour  is  waning. 

When  entering  the  nest  the  bird  flies  straight  up  the  tunnel  without 
perching  at  the  entrance. 

The  breeding  season  is  rather  extended,  from  April  to  November, 
but  most  colonies  are  occupied  during  the  rains. 

Two  is  the  normal  clutch  of  eggs,  but  three  or  four  are  sometimes 
laid.  The  egg  is  a  rather  long  oval,  somewhat  pointed  towards  the 
small  end  ;  the  texture  is  fine,  and  the  colour  is  a  dead  glossless 
white,  unmarked. 

It  measures  about  0-82  by  0-59  inches. 


THE  STRIATED  WEAVER-BIRD 
PLOCEUS  MANYAR  (Horsfield) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Winter  plumage  : 
Upper  plumage  blackish-brown,  the  feathers  edged  with  fulvous  ; 
a  yellow  line  over  the  eye  and  a  short  transverse  yellow  line  on  each 
side  of  the  neck ;  wings  and  tail  blackish-brown  the  feathers  edged 
with  fulvous  becoming  greenish  on  the  edges  of  the  quill-feathers  ; 
chin  and  throat  white  washed  with  pale  yellow,  the  bases  of  the  feathers 
blackish-brown  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  pale  fulvous  white,  the 


212  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

feathers  of  the  breast  and  flanks  with  broad  blackish-brown  shaft- 
streaks  and  the  breast  washed  with  buff. 

Summer  plumage  :  In  both  sexes  wear  removes  the  fulvous  edges 
of  the  feathers  so  that  the  upper  plumage  and  sides  of  the  head  become 
dark  brown,  the  chin  and  throat  brown  and  the  breast  and  flanks 
more  harshly  streaked  ;  the  yellow  transverse  line  on  each  side  of 
the  neck  disappears.  In  the  male  the  crown  becomes  bright  shining 
golden  yellow  by  moult. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  brownish-horn,  blackish  in  summer ;  legs  pale 
fleshy-brown,  claws  dusky. 

Bill  rather  heavy  and  conical. 

Field  Identification. — Plains  of  India.  A  streaked  brown  Sparrow- 
like  bird  with  a  yellow  line  over  the  eye  and  another  behind  the  ear. 
In  breeding  plumage  the  male  has  a  golden  crown.  Found  in  flocks 
usually  in  reed-beds. 

Distribution. — India,  Ceylon  and  Burma  south  to  about  Moulmein 
in  Tenasserim :  also  in  Java.  The  typical  race  is  found  in  Java. 
Birds  from  India  and  Ceylon  all  belong  to  the  race  P.  m.  flaviceps 
which  gives  place  in  Burma  to  the  dark  richly  coloured  P.  m.  peguensis. 
In  India  this  Weaver  is  found  throughout  the  whole  area  south  of 
the  Himalayas,  but  owing  to  its  dependence  on  water  and  reed-beds 
the  distribution  is  very  local  and  the  bird  will  not  be  found  at  all 
through  considerable  tracts  of  country. 

An  even  more  locally  distributed  species  is  the  Black-throated 
Weaver-bird  (Ploceus  bengalensis)  which  is  found  here  and  there 
throughout  Northern  India  down  to  Bombay  and  Bastar.  It  is  very 
similar  in  plumage  to  the  Striated  Weaver-bird,  but  lacks  the  dark 
streaks  on  the  lower  plumage  and  has  a  black  band  across  the  breast. 

Habits,  etc. — There  is  little  to  say  of  the  habits  of  the  Striated 
Weaver-bird  in  distinction  from  those  of  the  Common  Baya  except 
to  emphasise  that  it  is  much  more  of  a  water-haunting  species.  As 
a  rule,  it  only  breeds  where  large  stretches  of  water  are  choked  with 
reed-beds  or  where  rivers  and  canals  exist  whose  banks  are  fringed 
with  reed  and  rush  or  bordered  with  thickets  of  high  grass.  In  such 
places  it  is  often  very  numerous  indeed,  living  and  nesting  in  the  reeds 
and  feeding  in  flocks  on  the  grass  seeds  or  on  insects  found  in  the 
grass.  Each  individual  colony  is,  however,  small,  consisting  of  some 
half  dozen  nests,  and  the  colonies,  though  sometimes  near  to  colonies 
of  the  other  two  species,  are  separate  from  them. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  July  to  September. 

The  nest  is  very  similar  in  shape,  materials  and  construction  to  that 
of  the  Baya.  It  differs  from  it,  however,  in  one  important  particular. 
The  nest  of  the  Baya  tapers  above  to  a  point  and  is  suspended  by 
that  point  alone  from  one  twig  or  other  support.  The  nest  of  the 
Striated  Weaver  is,  on  the  other  hand,  suspended  from  some  forty  or 


THE    STRIATED   WEAVER-BIRD  213 

fifty  ends  of  the  grass  or  rushes  which  are  bent  over  by  the  birds  and 
incorporated  in  the  top  of  the  nest,  giving  it  a  cluster  of  supports 
and  a  clumsier  and  more  massive  appearance  as  regards  the  upper 
part.  The  tubular  entrance  is  usually  snorter  in  this  species.  Some 
nests  have  acacia  flowers  cemented  to  the  nest  with  cow-dung. 

The  usual  clutch  is  of  two  eggs,  but  three,  four  and  rarely  five  may 
be  found.  The  egg  is  a  moderately  broad  oval,  a  good  deal  pointed 
at  the  small  end  and  of  a  perfectly  pure,  almost  glossless  white.  The 
texture  is  fine  and  compact  and  the  shell  though  thin  is  firm  and 
strong. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-80  by  0-58  inches. 


THE  WHITE-THROATED   MUNIA 

UROLONCHA  MALABARICA  (Linnaeus) 
(Plate  xi,  Fig.  3,  opposite  page  220) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
and  wings  dull  earthy-brown,  except  the  outer  flight-feathers  which 
are  black  ;  upper  tail-coverts  white  ;  tail  dark  brown,  margined  with 
rusty  ;  remainder  of  plumage  pale  buffy-white,  flanks  faintly  cross- 
barred  with  rusty. 

Iris  dark  brown ;  bill  plumbeous-horn,  tinged  with  lavender 
below  ;  legs  pale  purplish-pink. 

Bill  heavy  and  conical.     Tail  rather  long,  graduated  and  pointed. 

Field  Identification. — A  small,  rather  elongated  brown  bird, 
whitish  below  and  on  the  base  of  the  tail ;  found  in  cheeping  parties 
in  thorn  scrub  or  feeding  on  the  ground  ;  rather  tame  and  stupid  ; 
several  together  are  often  disturbed  out  of  big  grass  nests. 

Distribution. — The  White-throated  Munia  is  found  in  Afghanistan 
and  Baluchistan,  and  it  extends  from  the  Himalayas  (in  Hazara  and 
Gilgit)  across  to  Eastern  Bengal  and  south  to  Cape  Comorin  and 
Ceylon.  It  ascends  the  Himalayas  up  to  4000  or  5000  feet,  and  is 
a  sedentary  species. 

Several  other  Munias  are  locally  common.  The  best  known  is 
perhaps  the  White-backed  Munia  (Uroloncha  striata)  which  is  found 
along  the  Western  Ghats,  parts  of  the  Madras  Presidency,  the  Chota 
Nagpur  area  and  much  of  the  Outer  Himalayas.  This  is  blackish  in 
colour  with  the  rump  and  the  lower  parts  from  the  breast  white. 

The  Rufous-beHied  Munia  (Uroloncha  kelaarti)  is  a  familiar  bird 
in  the  Nilgiris. 

Habits,  etc. — The  White-throated  Munia  has  always  seemed  to 
me  one  of  the  dullest  of  our  Indian  birds  ;  it  has  no  migrations, 

02 


214          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

no  changes  of  plumage,  no  habits  of  interest,  and  in  its  breeding 
arrangements  it  has  some  of  the  failings  that  one  generally  expects 
to  find  amongst  domesticated  birds. 

It  is  a  bird  of  open  country,  rather  preferring  arid  spots  and  the 
neighbourhood  of  thorny  scrub.  It  is  found  in  small  parties  which 
are  tame  and  dull,  taking  to  flight  in  close  order  when  disturbed  and 
uttering  a  small  cheet-cheet-cheet  or  tee-tee  note.  The  bird  lives  on 
small  seeds  which  it  gathers  often  from  the  ground,  though  it  is 
very  partial  to  feeding  on  the  heads  of  pampas  grass  and  various 
crops  like  millet  and  dari.  Some  of  these  birds  are  generally  to 
be  found  in  a  Weaver  colony,  showing  a  disposition  to  trespass  in 
the  nests  and  affording  a  hint  as  to  the  origin  of  the  parasitic  habits 
of  other  members  of  this  family  in  Africa. 

The  nest  is  a  large  globular  structure,  composed  entirely  of 
grasses  of  various  sorts,  particularly  their  flowering  heads.  A  small 
circular  entrance,  moderately  well  concealed  and  rather  difficult  to 
find,  leads  into  the  egg  chamber,  which  is  lined  with  finer  grasses 
and  vegetable  downs.  It  is  usually  built  in  thorn  bushes,  about 
5  to  10  feet  from  the  ground,  but  occasional  nests  are  placed  in 
creepers  or  about  the  walls  of  houses. 

The  ownership  of  these  nests  seems  somewhat  loosely  defined,  as 
it  is  no  uncommon  thing  for  more  than  one  hen  to  lay  in  the  same 
nest.  I  have  myself  found  twenty-two  eggs  in  one  nest,'  ranging  from 
fresh  to  hard  set,  and  twenty-five  have  been  recorded  ;  while  four  to 
eight  eggs  appears  to  be  the  normal  clutch.  Even  when  the  structure 
is  not  being  used  for  its  proper  purpose  it  is  often  tenanted  as  a 
dormitory,  and  six  or  eight  of  these  small  birds  may  be  disturbed 
from  it  in  the  evenings.  Both  birds  of  the  pair  frequently  brood 
the  eggs  together. 

The  main  breeding  season  apparently  commences  with  the  rains 
and  continues  till  the  end  of  the  year,  but  nests  may  be  found  in  every 
month,  and  the  species  probably  is  very  irregular  in  its  breeding  habits  ; 
young  birds  on  occasion  breed  before  they  are  a  year  old. 

The  eggs  are  pure  white,  spotless,  and  devoid  of  gloss  ;  typically 
they  are  rather  broad  and  perfect  ovals,  but  there  is  a  good  deal  of 
variation  in  their  shape. 

They  average  about  0-60  by  0*47  inches  in  size. 


THE    SPOTTED    MUNIA  215 

THE    SPOTTED    MUNIA 

UROLONCHA  FUNCTULATA  (Linnaeus) 
(Plate  ii,  Fig.  i,  opposite  page  22) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Wings  and  upper 
plumage  dull  chocolate,  barred  on  the  rump  with  brown  and  yellowish 
and  giving  place  to  glistening  yellow  on  the  upper  tail-coverts ;  tail 
fulvous  yellow ;  sides  of  the  head,  chin  and  throat  rich  chestnut ; 
lower  plumage  white,  all  the  feathers  except  on  the  abdomen  banded 
with  fulvous  brown,  giving  a  scaled  appearance. 

Iris  deep  reddish-brown ;  bill  bluish-black,  paler  below ;  legs 
plumbeous. 

Bill  heavy  and  conical.  The  tail  is  rather  long,  graduated  and 
pointed. 

Field  Identification. — A  small  bird,  easily  identified  by  the  white 
under  plumage  with  dark  scale  markings,  the  chocolate  upper  plumage 
with  yellow  above  the  tail  and  the  chestnut  of  the  face  and  throat. 
Found  in  pairs  and  flocks  perching  in  bushes  and  hedges. 

Distribution. — This  Munia  is  found  throughout  the  greater  part 
of  India,  Ceylon,  and  Burma,  extending  eastwards  to  China.  It  is 
divided  into  two  races,  of  which  we  are  only  concerned  with  U.  p, 
lineoventer.  This  is  found  throughout  the  Himalayas  as  far  west 
as  Dalhousie  up  to  a  height  of  about  6000  feet  and  in  the  continental 
ranges  and  the  Nilgiris  to  their  summits.  It  is  found  also  throughout 
the  plains  except  in  the  North-west  Frontier  Province,  the  Punjab, 
Sind,  and  portions  of  Rajputana.  This  race  also  extends  to  Western 
Assam.  It  is  a  local  migrant. 

Two  species  of  Munia  have  black  heads  and  chestnut  upper  parts 
and  a  black  patch  in  the  middle  of  the  belly.  The  Chestnut-bellied 
Munia  (Munia  atricapilla)  has  the  lower  parts  chestnut  and  is  found 
along  the  base  of  the  Himalayas,  in  Bihar  and  Orissa,  South-east 
Bengal,  and  in  Assam.  The  Black-headed  Munia  (Munia  malacca) 
has  the  lower  parts  white.  It  is  found  locally  in  South  India  up  to 
the  Central  Provinces. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Spotted  Munia  avoids  heavy  forest  and  the 
more  barren  plains,  and  is  most  numerous  in  open  country  where 
scrub-jungle  alternates  with  cultivation,  and  the  vegetation  is  luxuriant. 
In  such  places  it  is  found  in  flocks  which  feed  largely  in  low-seeding 
herbage  and  settle  in  the  bushes,  flying  when  disturbed  in  close  order 
like  a  swarm  of  bees,  with  a  curious  petulant  little  note  of  kitty-kitty- 
kitty.  They  are  fairly  tame  and  familiar  and  come  freely  into  gardens. 

The  breeding  season  is  usually  during  the  rains  in  July  and 
August,  but  in  the  Nilgiris  it  is  more  extended  from  February  to 
September. 


216  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

The  nest  is  a  big  clumsy  structure,  shaped  liked  a  melon,  and  very 
large  for  the  size  of  the  bird.  The  entrance  hole  is  placed  on  one 
side  and  is  often  difficult  to  find,  so  untidy  are  the  walls  of  the  nest. 
It  is  wedged  into  the  fork  of  a  tree  or  bush  at  heights  from  5  to 
7  feet  from  the  ground  and  occasionally  higher,  and  the  site  is 
often  prepared  with  a  rough  platform  of  the  same  materials  as  those 
of  which  the  nest  is  constructed.  These  consist  of  coarse  blades  and 
stems  of  grass,  rice,  and  barley  straw,  and  leaves  of  bajera  and  jawar. 
The  egg  cavity  is  lined  with  fine  grasses  and  roots. 

The  situation  chosen  is  generally  a  thick  thorny  tree  or  bush,  but 
creepers  on  houses  and  trellis-work  in  gardens  are  also  favoured. 

The  clutch  varies  from  four  to  ten  eggs. 

The  egg  is  pure  white,  a  somewhat  elongated  oval,  fine  in  texture 
and  without  gloss. 

It  measures  about  0-65  by  0-46  inches. 


THE    RED    AVADAVAT 

AMANDAVA  AMANDAVA  (Linnaeus) 
(Plate  n,  Fig.  2,  opposite  page  22) 

Description. — Length  4  inches.  Male  in  breeding  plumage  :  The 
whole  body  plumage,  except  a  black  patch  from  the  abdomen  to 
under  the  tail,  crimson  more  or  less  mottled  with  the  ashy-brown 
bases  of  the  feathers  showing  through  ;  a  patch  above  the  base  of  the 
tail,  and  the  sides  of  the  neck,  breast  and  body  spotted  with  white  ; 
wings  brown,  the  feathers  nearest  the  body  tipped  with  white  ;  tail 
blackish,  the  outer  feathers  tipped  with  white. 

In  winter  plumage  the  male  resembles  the  female,  but  has  a  greyer 
throat  and  upper  breast. 

Female  :  Upper  plumage  brown  ;  upper  tail-coverts  dull  crimson 
with  minute  white  tips  ;  wings  and  tail  as  in  the  male  ;  a  blackish 
mark  in  front  of  the  eye  ;  chin  and  throat  whitish  ;  sides  of  the  head 
and  neck  and  the  breast  ashy-brown  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage 
dull  saffron,  flanks  washed  with  ashy. 

Iris  orange-red ;  bill  red,  dusky  about  nostrils ;  legs  brownish- 
flesh. 

Bill  short  and  conical. 

Field  Identification. — A  tiny  bird  found  in  flocks  in  damp  areas 
with  reeds  or  in  pampas  grass  ;  males  are  reddish,  females  brown 
and  yellow,  both  sexes  much  spotted  with  white.  Well  known  under 
the  name  of  "  Lai  "  as  a  cage  and  aviary  bird,  netted  in  numbers 
for  sale. 


THE    RED    AVADAVAT  217 

Distribution. — The  Red  Avadavat  is  found  from  India,  through 
Burma  to  Siam,  Cochin-China,  Singapore,  and  Java.  It  is  divided 
into  two  races,  but  only  the  typical  form  occurs  within  our 
limits.  In  India  it  is  found  practically  throughout  the  country 
from  the  foot  of  the  Himalayas,  which  it  ascends  to  about  2000  feet, 
down  to  Cape  Comorin,  and  from  Baluchistan  and  the  North-west 
Frontier  Province  eastwards.  It  is,  however,  wanting  in  the  more 
dry  and  barren  plains  of  the  North-west.  In  the  Nilgiris  it  ascends 
to  6000  feet.  A  resident  species. 

A  closely  allied  species  is  the  Green  Munia  (Sticospiza  formosa), 
in  which  green  and  yellow  are  the  dominant  colours,  whilst  the  flanks 
are  strongly  barred.  Widely  distributed  in  a  broad  belt  across  the 
centre  of  the  Peninsula. 

Habits,  etc. — This  Avadavat  is  chiefly  found  in  well-watered  and 
well-wooded  localities,  and  it  is  very  partial  to  heavy  grass  jungles 
and  patches  of  reeds  and  grass  on  the  outskirts  of  jheels.  In  such 
localities  it  is  found  in  flocks  which  perch  on  the  heads  of  the  tall 
flowering  grasses,  whence  they  fly  in  a  cloud  with  their  shrill  little 
call-note  when  disturbed.  They  are  very  bright  and  lively  in  their 
demeanour,  and  being  tame  and  confiding  are  easily  captured  in 
numbers,  and  make  delightful  pets.  They  are  to  be  seen  in  dozens 
in  the  cages  of  the  bird-catchers,  and  are  exported  in  large  numbers 
to  Europe  for  sale  to  aviculturists. 

The  breeding  season  is  very  irregular  and  varies  according  to 
locality,  so  that  nests  may  be  found  in  every  month  of  the  year. 
The  greater  number,  however,  nest  in  the  rains  and  early  winter. 
Two  broods  a  year  appear  to  be  raised. 

The  nest  is  a  large  melon-shaped  structure  with  the  entrance  at 
one  side  ;  it  is  built  of  grasses  of  various  types  and  the  cock  bird 
often  continues  to  add  material  to  it  after  the  eggs  are  laid  and  the 
female  is  sitting.  The  cavity  is  lined  with  fine  grass,  downs,  and 
sometimes  with  feathers.  It  is  well  concealed  as  a  rule,  being  built 
in  the  bases  of  thick  bushes  or  clumps  of  grass  or  reeds,  never  higher 
than  3  feet  from  the  ground  and  often  practically  on  it. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  five  or  six  eggs,  but  various  numbers 
up  to  fourteen  have  been  recorded,  and  probably  sometimes  two 
females  lay  in  one  nest. 

The  eggs  are  very  fine  and  delicate  in  texture,  without  gloss,  a 
regular  oval  in  shape,  often  rather  pointed  at  one  or  both  ends.  The 
colour  is  pure  white. 

In  size  they  average  about  0-55  by  0-43  inches. 


2i8          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

THE  BLACK  AND  YELLOW  GROSBEAK 

PERISSOSPIZA  ICTEROIDES  (Vigors) 
(Plate  xv,  Fig.  i,  opposite  page  308) 

Description. — Length  9  inches.  Male  :  The  whole  head,  chin  and 
throat,  the  wings  and  tail  and  the  thighs  dull  black  ;  remainder  of 
plumage  bright  yellow,  tinged  with  orange  on  the  hind  neck. 

Female  :  The  whole  head  and  neck  and  the  upper  parts  dull  ^shy- 
grey,  becoming  more  fulvous  above  the  tail ;  quills  of  the  wing  and 
tail  black,  the  inner  wing-quills  and  the  central  tail-feathers  washed 
with  ashy-grey ;  breast  ashy-brown  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage 
bright  tawny  fulvous. 

The  bill  is  very  heavy  and  conical  in  shape. 

Iris  brown ;  bill  olive-green  in  male,  horny-green  in  female ; 
legs  fleshy-pink,  claws  dusky. 

Field  Identification. — West  Himalayan  form.  A  large  heavily  built 
Finch  with  a  heavy  conical  greenish  beak.  The  male  is  bright  yellow 
with  black  head,  wings  and  tail,  the  female  dull  ashy-colour  with 
fulvous  under  parts.  Conspicuous  when  feeding  on  the  ground  but 
difficult  to  see  in  trees  and  usually  found  through  its  distinctive  call- 
note  tre-ter  tre-ter. 

Distribution. — A  resident  species  in  the  Western  Himalayas  from 
Naini  Tal  to  Hazara  and  Chitral ;  also  in  the  Sufed  Koh.  It  breeds 
in  the  spruce  and  silver  fir  forests  between  7500  and  9000  feet,  and 
in  winter  some  drift  lower  to  about  4000  feet. 

It  must  not  be  confounded  with  the  very  similar  Allied  Grosbeak 
(Perissospiza  affinis)  which  is  found  in  the  Himalayas  from  Hazara 
to  Bhutan.  This  species  frequents  the  high  level  silver  fir  and  birch 
forests  between  10,000  and  11,000  feet.  Its  call  notes  are  quite 
Distinct  from  those  of  P.  icteroides.  In  this  the  male  has  the  thighs 
yellow  and  the  yellow  of  the  upper  parts  more  orange.  The  female 
is  a  greener  bird. 

Both  these  Grosbeaks  are  easily  distinguished  by  the  bill  from 
the  Black-headed  Oriole  (Oriolus  xanthornus)  which  many  people 
confuse  with  them  in  spite  of  the  different  distribution  (see  p.  193). 

Habits,  etc. — This  Grosbeak  is  a  bird  of  the  Himalayan  forests 
where  it  is  found  in  all  types  of  forest  both  deciduous  and  evergreen, 
but  more  particularly  in  stretches  of  silver  firs  and  deodars.  It 
feeds  a  good  deal  in  the  undergrowth  and  on  the  ground,  often 
venturing  on  to  the  roads,  but  otherwise  keeps  mostly  to  the  highest 
trees  so  that  it  is  more  often  seen  than  heard.  For  the  call-note, 
tre-ter  tre-ter  or  trekatree  trekatree,  trekup  trekup,  uttered  by  both 
sexes,  is  one  of  thefamiliar  sounds  of  a  Himalayan  forest  or  a  Himalayan 
sanatorium.  The  song  note  of  the  male  is  a  pretty  whistle,  tre-truit 
tre-trui  or  tra  trui-tree.  The  feeding  note  is  chuck  chuck. 


THE  BLACK  AND  YELLOW  GROSBEAK     219 

The  food  consists  of  the  fresh  shoots  of  conifers  and  the  seeds  from 
their  cones  as  well  as  the  fruits  of  shrubs  and  plants  in  the  undergrowth. 

Out  of  the  breeding  season  the  birds  collect  into  parties  and  small 
flocks. 

The  breeding  season  begins  in  April  and  continues  until  July 
and  perhaps  even  until  September,  but  most  eggs  are  certainly  to  be 
found  in  June. 

The  nest  may  be  built  at  any  height  from  1 8  to  60  feet  from  the 
ground  and  the  usual  situation  is  against  the  main  trunk  of  a  conifer, 
preferably  a  spruce,  deodar  or  silver  fir.  It  is,  however,  on  occasion 
built  on  a  horizontal  bough  and  also  in  a  non-coniferous  tree  such  as 
a  yew,  lime  or  wild  cherry.  The  materials  of  the  nest,  which  is  a  wide 
cup,  are  fine  twigs,  lichens  and  silvery,  plant-stems  with  often  a  certain 
amount  of  moss.  The  cup  is  lined  with  dry  grass  and  rootlets. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  or  three  eggs. 

The  egg  is  broad  in  shape  and  rather  pointed  towards  the  small 
end ;  the  texture  is  smooth  and  hard  with  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground- 
colour is  pale  greenish-grey  marked  with  numerous  blackish-brown 
tangled  lines,  some  thick  and  bold,  some  very  fine  twisted  and  inter- 
twined, in  a  zone  round  the  broad  end  and  more  or  less  underlaid 
by  faint  inky-purple  clouds.  A  few  blackish-brown  spots  and  odd 
streaks  are  also  found  on  the  rest  of  the  egg's  surface. 

The  egg  measures  about  I'oo  by  0-08  inches. 


THE  RED-HEADED  BULLFINCH 
PYRRHULA  ERYTHROCEPHALA  Vigors 

Description. — Length  5-5  inches.  Male:  A  broad  band  of  black 
round  the  base  of  the  bill  and  extending  round  the  eye ;  head  and 
neck  rich  reddish-brown,  paler  on  the  throat  and  breast ;  back  ash- 
grey  ;  rump  white  margined  in  front  by  a  black  band.  The  upper 
tail  coverts  and  tail  glossy  black  ;  wings  black  with  a  band  of  greyish- 
brown  ;  abdomen  greyish-white.  In  worn  plumage  the  red  of  the 
head  is  tinged  with  yellow.  Female  :  Similar  to  male,  but  the  head 
and  neck  are  yellowish-green  and  the  lower  parts  brown  or  drab. 

Iris  light  brown  ;   bill  black  ;  legs  pale  fleshy-brown. 

Field  Identification. — A  low  monosyllabic  call  note.  The  black 
'wings  and  tail  and  white  rump  are  characteristic  of  all  bullfinches. 
The  white  rump  especially  catches  the  eye  at  once  when  the  birds 
are  in  flight.  The  red  head  in  the  male  and  yellowish-green  of  the 
female  are  characteristic  of  this  species. 

Distribution. — Himalayas  from  Kishtwar  to  Bhutan.  In  the 
breeding  season  this  Bullfinch  is  found  in  silver  fir,  spruce,  and 
deodar  forests  from  9000  to  12,000  feet  where  some  birds  remain 


220  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

throughout  the  year,  while  others  in  the  autumn  wander  down  to  the 
valleys  to  about  6000  feet  and  occasionally  as  low  as  3500  feet.  It  is 
common  in  winter  in  the  vicinity  of  Simla,  Naini  Tal,  Mussoorie  and 
Darjeeling.  Another  species  is  the  slightly  larger  Brown  Bullfinch 
(P.  nipalensis)  ranging  from  Kangra  to  Bhutan  at  an  elevation  of 
from  6500  to  11,000  feet  in  summer  ;  at  other  seasons  between  5000 
and  7000  feet.  The  general  colour  is  ashy-brown  with  black  wings, 
tail  and  rump  ;  this  last  has  a  white  cross-band.  The  sexes  are^alike, 
except  that  in  the  male  the  outer  edge  of  the  innermost  feather  of 
the  wing  is  crimson,  while  in  the  female  it  is  yellow. 

Habits,  etc. — In  the  non-breeding  season  this  Bullfinch  is  found 
in  small  parties,  not  infrequently  of  one  sex.  Its  food  consists  of 
seeds  and  fruits  of  trees,  shrubs  and  herbaceous  plants.  Small  parties 
may  sometimes  be  seen  feeding  on  the  seeds  of  rank  nettles  on  the 
hillsides.  At  the  end  of  April  or  May  the  birds  pair  and  at  this 
season  frequent  willows,  attracted  by  the  catkins.  It  is  very  tame 
and  utters  a  low  musical  whistle  similar  to  the  British  bird. 

The  Red-headed  Bullfinch  is  a  late  breeder  and  the  eggs  are  laid 
as  a  rule  in  August.  The  nest  is  built  on  a  branch  of  a  tree  some 
distance  from  the  ground,  and  is  the  usual  Bullfinch  type  ;  thin  twigs 
and  moss,  lined  with  fine  roots. 

The  eggs  vary  from  three  to  four  in  number,  and  resemble  those 
of  a  Greenfinch  more  than  the  common  Bullfinch.  They  are  a  dull 
grey- white  with  a  faint  tinge  of  green,  marked  with  small  specks 
and  blotches  of  brown  or  red-brown,  some  almost  dark  grey. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-8  by  0-6  inches. 


THE    COMMON    ROSE  FINCH 
CARPODACUS  ERYTHRINUS  (Pallas) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Adult  male  :  Entire  body-plumage 
dull  crimson,  largely  mixed  with  brown  on  the  back  and  sides,  and 
brightest  on  the  rump,  chin,  throat,  and  breast ;  the  lower  parts 
grow  paler  posteriorly  till  under  the  tail  they  are  whitish  ;  wings 
and  tail  brown,  edged  with  rufous. 

In  breeding  plumage  the  margins  wear  off  the  feathers  and  so 
leave  the  bird  a  brighter  crimson. 

Female  and  immature  male  :  The  whole  plumage  olive-brown 
streaked  with  brown,  wings  and  tail  margined  with  ochraceous  ;  a 
double  whitish  bar  across  the  wing-coverts. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  horny-brown  ;  legs  dusky  brown. 

Bill  rather  heavy  and  conical. 

Field  Identification. — Found  in  flocks  in  trees  and  crops  ;  a  dull 
brown  bird,  the  size  of  a  Sparrow,  streaked  with  dark  brown  and  with 


PLATE  XI 


i.  Black-naped  Flycatcher.     2.  Dark-grey  Bush-Chat.     3.  White-throated  Munia. 
4.  Spotted  Babbler.     5.  Red-winged  Bush-Lark,     (f  nat.  size.) 


[Face  p.  220 


THE    COMMON    ROSEFINCH  221 

a  pale  double  wing-bar ;   a  small  proportion  of  individuals  consist  of 
adult  males  in  a  dull  scarlet  dress. 

Distribution. — Widely  distributed  over  Eastern  Europe  and  Asia, 
the  Common  Rosefinch  is  divided  into  several  races  differing  in  the 
extent  and  brightness  of  the  red  colour  of  the  males  :  opinions  differ 
as  to  the  validity  of  some  of  these  races,  but  the  majority  of  Indian 
birds  certainly  belong  to  the  form  C.  e.  roseatus.  This  breeds 
throughout  the  higher  Himalayas  and  the  mountains  of  Central 
Asia  generally  at  heights  of  10,000  feet  and  upwards.  It  is 
migratory,  and  after  breeding  spreads  over  almost  the  whole  of 
India  and  Northern  Burma,  going  as  far  south  as  the  High  Range  in 
Travancore ;  it  is  most  abundant  in  the  central  and  western  half  of 
the  Peninsula,  while  the  South-eastern  Punjab  and  Sind  lie  out  of  the 
main  line  of  migration  and  only  stragglers  reach  those  parts.  More 
data  is  required  about  the  movements  of  this  species,  which  arrives  in 
the  northern  plains  about  September,  and  reaches  Southern  India  at 
the  end  of  November,  and  moves  north  again  from  March  to  May. 

Habits,  etc. — During  migration  and  in  the  winter  months  in  India 
the  Common  Rosefinch  is  generally  met  with  in  flocks  which  aie 
quiet  and  unobtrusive  in  behaviour,  feeding  as  a  rule  in  undergrowth 
or  in  millet  and  similar  crops.  They  avoid  heavy  forest  and  are 
found  in  any  type  of  open  country,  visiting  gardens  and  the  neighbour- 
hood of  villages.  The  flocks  are  sometimes  of  some  size  and  they 
feed  very  largely  on  the  ground,  flying  up  into  trees  when  disturbed. 
The  full-plumaged  males  are  always  in  a  minority,  as  first-year  males 
breed  in  the  female  dress. 

The  food  consists  of  wild  cherries,  mulberries,  and  a  variety  of 
other  seeds  and  fruits  ;  buds  and  shoots  are  also  eaten.  The  bird 
is  very  fond  of  the  watery  nectar  contained  in  the  flower  of  the  coral- 
tree,  and  particularly  frequents  that  tree  when  in  blossom. 

Ordinarily  in  India  the  bird  is  very  quiet,  but  on  the  spring 
migration  the  males  commence  their  loud  pleasant  song,  which, 
albeit  somewhat  monotonous,  is  such  a  feature  of  the  barren  wastes 
of  Gilgit,  Ladakh,  Spiti,  and  other  Tibetan  areas.  There,  during  the 
summer  months  the  birds  frequent  and  breed  in  the  scanty  patches 
of  scrub  usually  in  the  vicinity  of  water. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  June  to  August.  The  nest  is  a  cup- 
shaped  structure  of  grass  lined  with  finer  roots  and  stems  and 
occasionally  hair.  It  is  placed  in  low  bushes  and  the  bird  is  a  very 
close  sitter,  allowing  itself  almost  to  be  caught  rather  than  leave  the  nest. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs.  They  are  rather  broad 
ovals,  pointed  towards  the  smaller  end,  and  fine  and  smooth  in  texture. 
In  colour  they  are  a  beautiful  deep  blue,  with  a  few  scrawls  and  spots 
of  chocolate  colour,  some  pale,  some  almost  black. 

They  measure  about  0-80  by  0-60  inches. 


222  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

THE  HIMALAYAN  GREENFINCH 
HYPACANTHIS  SPINOIDES  (Vigors) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Male  :  A  broad  line  over  the 
eye,  some  markings  on  the  sides  of  the  face,  an  indistinct  collar 
round  the  neck,  the  rump  and  the  whole  lower  plumage  bright 
yellow ;  remainder  of  upper  plumage  greenish-brown  mixed  'with 
black  and  darkest  on  the  head  ;  wings  dark  brown,  variegated  with 
yellow,  black  and  a  little  white  ;  tail  dark  brown,  all  but  the  two 
central  pairs  of  feathers  largely  mixed  with  yellow  increasing  externally. 

The  female  resembles  the  male,  but  is  slightly  duller  with  less 
yellow  in  the  wing-coverts. 


FIG.  31 — Himalayan  Greenfinch     (i  nat.  size) 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  fleshy-horn,  tipped  dusky  ;  legs  brownish-flesh. 

The  beak  is  conical,  sharp  and  pointed. 

Field  Identification. — Himalayan  species  ;  usually  gregarious  when 
breeding  and  gathering  into  flocks  in  winter  ;  recognisable  in  the 
field  by  the  pleasant  twittering  note,  the  habit  of  flying  high  in  the 
air,  and  the  yellow  under  parts,  eye-streak  and  wing-markings. 

Distribution. — A  Himalayan  species,  found  throughout  the  whole 
of  that  range.  It  breeds  commonly  but  locally  at  heights  from 
4000  to  9000  feet,  and  occasionally  higher  to  11,000  feet,  and  in 
winter  it  wanders  down  into  the  foot-hills  and  the  plains  at  their 
base.  On  the  west  it  is  common  in  winter  in  the  Peshawar  Valley, 
and  even  appears  in  the  Afghan  Hills  down  to  the  Samana.  On 
the  east  it  has  been  found  in  Manipur,  and  is  replaced  by  a  darker 
race  in  the  Shan  States  and  Yunnan. 

The  well-known  Goldfinch,  conspicuous  with  its  crimson  face 
and  golden  wing-bar,  is  common  in  the  Western  Himalayas,  Kashmir, 


THE    HIMALAYAN    GREENFINCH  223 

and  Baluchistan,  coming  down  to  the  North-west  Frontier  Province 
and  Northern  Punjab  in  winter.  It  lacks  the  black  head  marking  of 
the  English  species  and  belongs  to  the  Asiatic  species  Carduelis 
caniceps. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Himalayan  Greenfinch  avoids  heavy  deciduous 
forest,  and  while  breeding  prefers  to  frequent  patches  of  open 
deodar  forest  on  hill-sides  in  the  neighbourhood  of  cultivation. 
Several  pairs  breed  more  or  less  together  in  such  suitable  localities. 
Out  of  the  breeding  season  the  birds  collect  into  flocks,  often  of 
some  size,  and  these  flocks  wander  about  the  lower  hills  in  a  very 
erratic  manner,  so  that  no  regular  calendar  of  their  movements  can 
be  worked  out*  When  in  flocks  they  very  definitely  prefer  open 
cultivation  studded  with  trees,  and  their  favourite  food  is  the  seed 
of  the  wild  hemp  which  grows  in  large  patches  where  buffaloes  have 
been  kept.  They  are  easily  attracted  to  gardens  by  planting  sunflowers, 
as  they  are  very  fond  of  the  seeds  of  that  plant. 

The  ordinary  call-note  is  a  cheerful  twitter,  twit-it-it  or  teh-teh- 
tahy  rather  reminiscent  of  the  call  of  the  English  Goldfinch ;  it  has 
also  a  very  sweet-toned  note,  twee-ah.  The  song,  on  the  other  hand 
is  more  like  that  of  the  English  Greenfinch,  a  very  amorous  sounding 
screeee  or  treeee-tertrah.  The  love  flight  also  resembles  that  of  the 
latter  bird.  I  have  seen  a  bird  flying  past  suddenly  descend  in  a 
circle  to  a  tree,  with  the  wings  spread  and  extended  high  above  the 
head  and  the  tail  partly  open. 

The  breeding  season  is  late,  compared  with  most  Himalayan 
birds,  from  July  to  early  October,  and  this  is  correlated  with  curious 
features  in  the  moults  of  plumage. 

The  nest  is  a  neatly-constructed  cup  of  the  familiar  Linnet  type, 
composed  of  fine  grass  roots,  with  a  good  deal  of  hair  interwoven  in 
the  interior  as  lining,  and  the  exterior  is  often  blended  with  moss  to 
assimilate  it  to  its  surroundings.  It  is  usually  placed  in  a  deodar  or 
spruce  fir  at  a  considerable  height  from  the  ground,  and  may  be  in 
a  fork  or  clump  of  foliage  close  to  the  trunk  or  on  the  top  of  a  vertical 
bough  near  its  extremity. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs. 

The  eggs  are  regular  ovals,  slightly  pointed  towards  the  smaller 
end ;  the  texture  is  fine  and  delicate  without  gloss.  The  ground- 
colour is  a  very  delicate  pale  sea-green,  and  the  only  markings  are  a 
number  of  fine  black  spots  and  specks,  usually  most  numerous  towards 
the  broad  end. 

The  eggs  measure  about  0*70  by  0*52  inches. 


824          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

THE  YELLOW-THROATED  SPARROW 
GYMNORHIS  XANTHOCOLLIS  (Burton) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Male :  The  whole  upper  plumage 
ashy-brown  ;  wings  brown,  darker  on  the  quills,  with  two  wing-bars, 
the  upper  whitish  the  lower  buff,  a  chestnut  patch  above  the  upper 
bar;  tail  brown,  narrowly  edged  with  paler;  chin  dull  white;  a 
conspicuous  yellow  patch  on  the  throat ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage 
pale  ashy,  becoming  whitish  on  the  abdomen. 


FIG.  32 — Yellow-throated  Sparrow    (f  nat.  size) 

The  female  has  a  less  conspicuous  yellow  patch  on  the  throat, 
and  the  chestnut  patch  on  the  wings  is  replaced  with  rufous-brown. 

Iris  dark  brown ;  bill  black  or  brown  ;  legs  greyish-plumbeous. 
The  beak  is  rather  long,  conical  and  pointed. 

Field  Identification. — Plains  and  lower  hills.  A  slim  bird,  dull  in 
plumage,  with  a  chestnut  patch  on  the  wing  and  a  bright  yellow 
patch  on  the  throat ;  arboreal  and  rather  noisy  in  the  summer ;  in 
winter  collects  into  flocks  which  feed  on  the  ground,  flying  into 
trees  when  disturbed. 


THE    YELLOW-THROATED    SPARROW  .     225 

Distribution. — The  Yellow-throated  Sparrow  extends  from  Iraq, 
Persia  and  Afghanistan  almost  throughout  India.  It  is  divided  into 
two  races.  The  Persian  and  Afghan  race,  G.  x.  transfuga,  distin- 
guished by  its  pale  coloration,  extends  into  Sind  and  the  South- 
western Punjab,  while  the  birds  of  the  remainder  of  the  Punjab  are 
somewhat  intermediate  in  character.  The  typical  race  is  found 
throughout  the  rest  of  India  down  to  Travancore,  and  on  the  east 
to  about  Midnapur  in  Bengal.  In  the  Himalayas  and  other  ranges 
it  ascends  to  about  4500  feet.  While  resident  in  the  main  it  is  also 
partly  migratory. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Yellow-throated  Sparrow  is  a  common  and 
generally  distributed  species  in  all  open  country,  cultivation  and 
barren  land  alike,  but  it  avoids  heavy  forest,  and  is  not  a  house 
bird,  though  it  will  nest  in  trees  in  gardens,  and  readily  use  nest- 
boxes  placed  for  the  use  of  bir4s.  It  is  essentially  a  Tree -Sparrow, 
and  spends  most  of  its  time  in  the  upper  branches  of  trees,  where  its 
monotonous  chirping  note  recalls,  but  is  different  from,  the  chirp  of 
the  Common  House-Sparrow.  Out  of  the  breeding  season  it  collects 
into  large  flocks,  and  these  feed  on  the  ground,  searching  under  trees 
fSr  their  fallen  seeds  and  for  the  seeds  of  grasses  and  weeds.  It  is 
very  fond  of  the  flowers  of  the  wild  caper,  and  its  forehead  is  often 
stained  with  their  pollen. 

It  breeds  from  April  to  July  and  is  probably  double-brooded. 

The  nest  is  usually  a  mere  pad  of  dry  grass  thickly  lined  with 
feathers,  but,  as  with  many  species  that  breed  in  holes,  it  varies  a 
good  deal  according  to  its  site,  and  is  sometimes  quite  a  pretentious 
structure  built  neatly  of  a  variety  of  materials.  It  is  placed  in  holes 
and  hollows  of  trees,  usually  at  a  height  of  15  to  20  feet  from  the 
ground,  but  sometimes  much  lower.  The  old  nest-holes  of  Wood- 
peckers and  Parrots  are  often  appropriated. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs.  They  are  moderately 
elongated  ovals,  rather  dull  and  glossless  in  texture.  The  ground- 
colour is  greenish-white,  very  thickly  streaked,  smudged  and 
blotched  all  over  with  very  dingy  brown  of  a  tint  between  sepia  and 
chocolate. 

In  size  they  average  about  0-74  by  0-55  inches. 


226          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 


THE    HOUSE-SPARROW 

PASSER  DOMESTICUS  (Linnaeus) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Male  :  Top  of  head  ashy-grey, 
bordered  from  above  the  eye  with  chestnut  which  gradually  encroaches 
until  the  whole  hind  neck,  back  and  shoulders  are  chestnut  streaked 
with  black  ;  rump  ashy-grey ;  wings  variegated  chestnut  and  dark 
brown  with  two  conspicuous  pale  bars  ;  tail  dark  brown  edged  paler ; 
a  patch  from  the  beak  to  the  eye  and  a  broad  patch  from  the  chin  to 
the  upper  breast  black ;  cheeks  and  remainder  of  the  lower  plumage 
white,  tinged  with  ashy  on  the  flanks. 

In  fresh  autumn  plumage  the  colours  are  somewhat  obscured  by 
ashy  fringes  to  the  feathers,  but  these  gradually  wear  off. 

Female  :  A  pale  rufous-white  streak  over  the  eye  ;  upper  plumage 
pale  earthy-brown,  streaked  with  black  and  rufous  on  the  upper 
back ;  wings  dark  brown,  variegated  with  rufous  and  with  two 
whitish  bars ;  tail  dark  brown  edged  paler ;  whole  lower  plumage 
ashy- white. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  brown,  black  in  the  male  in  summer ;  legs 
brown. 

The  bill  is  short  and  stout. 

Field  Identification. — Well  known  to  everyone  and  almost  universal, 
but  it  may  be  noted  that  the  Indian  bird  differs  from  the  European  in 
the  white  cheeks  of  the  male. 

Distribution. — As  is  well  known,  the  House-Sparrow  is  very  widely 
spread  through  Europe,  Northern  Africa  and  the  greater  part  of  Asia  ; 
it  has  also  been  introduced  into  America  and  Australia,  and  many  other 
places. 

It  is  divided  into  a  number  of  sub-species,  of  which  we  are 
concerned  with  two  :  P.  d.  griseigularis  is  the  large,  brightly-coloured 
breeding  bird  of  the  Inner  Himalayas  and  Tibetan  areas  from  5000 
to  15,000  feet.  It  is  partly  migratory,  and  large  numbers  visit  the 
plains  of  North-western  India  in  winter.  P.  d.  indicus  is  smaller  and 
from  its  haunts  often  a  dirty  looking  bird.  This  race  is  found  through- 
out India  to  Ceylon,  Assam,  and  Burma.  The  birds  of  the  Outer 
Himalayas  are  intermediate  between  the  two  races. 

In  the  stations  of  Quetta  and  Darjeeling  the  Tree-Sparrow 
(Passer  montanus)  is  common  about  houses.  It  is  distinguished 
by  the  black  spot  in  the  middle  of  the  white  cheeks  and  the  fact 
that  the  female  doeS^npt  differ  from  the  male. 

Habits,  etc. — There  can  be  no  bird  that  is  more  universally 
known  and  recognised  than  the  House-Sparrow.  It  avoids  heavy 
forest,  but  is  otherwise  found  everywhere,  sometimes  scarce  but  more 


THE    HOUSE-SPARROW  227 

usually  abundant,  dependent  only  on  food-supply :  and  its  food- 
supply  is  generally  connected  in  some  way  with  man,  on  whom  it 
has  virtually  become  a  parasite.  The  larger  and  more  prosperous  a 
city  or  village  the  more  the  Sparrow  flourishes,  and  in  the  open  shops 
and  houses  of  the  East  it  is  only  considered  less  of  a  pest  than  rats 
and  mice,  because  it  is  less  offensive  to  eye  and  nose.  In  the  food 
shops  it  pilfers  every  variety  of  grain  and  cake,  pattering  over  the 
floors,  delving  into  the  dishes  and  sacks,  ejected  one  moment  and 
returning  again  the  next  with  undiminished  ardour.  In  private 
houses  it  comes  in  more  for  shelter  than  for  food,  searching  for 
nesting  places  in  the  rafters  and  on  the  walls,  littering  the  whole  place 
with  a  selection  of  the  varied  assortment  of  rubbish  that  in  its  eyes 
is  the  most  suitable  nesting  material  possible.  And  in  private 
houses,  having  more  leisure  and  inclination  for  song,  it  makes  a 
further  nuisance  of  itself  with  the  noisy  and  incessant  chirruping 
which  serves  it  for  that  purpose.  For  the  breeding  note  is  a  rather 
shrill  chissicky  differing  but  little  from  the  ordinary  tchirp  of 
daily  life. 

But,  like  all  true  townsmen,  the  Sparrow  likes  an  occasional 
holiday  in  the  country,  and  it  times  its  holidays  to  coincide  with  the 
opportunities  of  visiting  ripening  corn  or  fruit  in  huge  flocks  which 
often  do  a  considerable  amount  of  damage.  But  in  fairness  credit 
must  also  be  given  for  the  considerable  number  of  insect  pests  which 
are  certainly  destroyed  by  the  Sparrow,  who  feeds  its  callow  chicks 
to  a  large  extent  on  insects  and  caterpillars. 

Nests  may  be  found  in  any  month  in  India,  and  more  than  one 
brood  is  certainly  reared  in  the  year ;  but  the  main  breeding  season 
is  apparently  from  April  to  June. 

The  nest  is  a  large,  shapeless  structure,  based  on  an  oval  and 
domed  plan  with  an  entrance  on  one  side,  stuffed  into  any  sort  of 
hole  or  cavity  available,  provided  that  it  has  some  connection  wkh 
the  works  of  man.  Trees  are  on  the  whole  seldom  used  in  India. 
Grass,  straw,  rags,  wool,  and  any  other  materials  available  are  used 
in  the  construction  of  the  nest,  and  the  egg  chamber  is  thickly  lined 
with  feathers. 

The  clutch  usually  consists  of  four  or  five  eggs.  They  are  rather 
elongated  ovals,  fine  in  texture  with  a  slight  gloss.  The  colour  is 
very  variable,  and  the  eggs  in  one  clutch  often  vary  amongst  them- 
selves, one  egg  usually  being  much  lighter  than  the  rest.  The 
ground-colour  is  greyish-  or  greenish-white,  generally  finely  and 
uniformly  spotted  with  dark  and  light  shades  of  ashy-grey  and  brown. 
In  some  eggs  these  markings  are  replaced  by  big  blotches  and  spots. 

In  size  they  average  about  O'8o  by  0-50  inches. 


228  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

THE  CINNAMON   SPARROW 
PASSER  RUTILANS  (Tcmminck) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Male :  Upper  plumage  and 
lesser  wing-coverts  bright  cinnamon-rufous,  streaked  with  black  on 
the  back  ;  wings  black  edged  with  rufous  and  fulvous  and  \\ith  a 
white  wing-bar  ;  tail  brown  with  narrow  greenish  margins  ;  a  small 
black  patch  from  the  bill  to  the  eye  ;  a  patch  behind  the  eye  pale 
yellowish-white  ;  chin  and  throat  black,  with  a  bright  yellow  patch 
on  each  side  of  the  throat ;  lower  plumage  greyish-yellow,  growing 
yellower  towards  the  tail. 

Female  :  Whole  upper  plumage  ruddy-brown,  streaked  on  the 
back  with  black  and  fulvous  and  reddish  on  the  rump  ;  wings  and 
tail  dark  brown  edged  with  fulvous,  a  white  bar  across  the  wing ;  a 
broad  conspicuous  fulvous  line  above  the  eye,  with  a  broad  dusky 
band  through  the  eye  ;  lower  plumage  pale  ashy-yellow. 

Iris  reddish-brown  ;  bill  brown,  black  in  male  in  summer ;  legs 
dark  reddish-brown. 

Field  Identification. — Himalayan  species,  common  about  hill 
stations  ;  smaller  than  the  House- Sparrow  ;  male  easily  distinguished 
by  cinnamon-red  upper  plumage  and  yellow  lower  plumage,  female 
by  the  broad  conspicuous  pale  band  above  the  eye. 

Distribution. — The  Cinnamon  Sparrow  is  a  widely-spread  species 
occurring  throughout  the  Himalayas  and  farther  eastwards  to  China, 
Japan  and  Formosa.  It  is  divided  into  races,  of  which  P.  r.  cinna- 
momeus  breeds  along  the  Himalayas  from  Chitral  and  Hazara  to 
Kumaon  and  is  replaced  in  the  Eastern  Himalayas  by  the  larger 
P.  r.  schaferi  and  in  Assam,  Burma  and  Yunnan  by  the  darker 
P.  r.  intensior.  In  the  Himalayas  it  breeds  at  elevations  between 
4000  and  8000  feet,  and  in  winter  collects  into  a  lower  zone  along 
the  foot-hills,  on  the  east  coming  right  down  into  the  Duars. 

Immense  flocks  of  dark  Sparrow-like  birds  are  often  found  swinging 
along  the  open  hill-sides  of  the  Inner  Himalayas,  both  east  and  west, 
and  feeding  on  the  ground.  These  are  usually  Stoliczka's  Mountain- 
Finch  (Fringillauda  nemoricola). 

Habits,  etc. — The  pretty  little  Cinnamon  Sparrow  is  really  a 
forest  Sparrow,  though  it  lives  mostly  in  oak  and  rhododendron 
forest  in  the  near  vicinity  of  houses  and  often  frequents  gardens. 
In  winter  it  collects  into  large  flocks  which  move  down  into  the 
cultivation  in  the  foot-hills  and  feed  on  the  ground,  picking  up  stray 
grains  of  rice  and  corn  in  the  deserted  fields,  and  flying  up  when 
disturbed  into  neighbouring  trees.  These  flocks  are  often  of  con- 
siderable size.  The  call-note  and  pretence  of  a  song  are  very  similar 


THE    CINNAMON    SPARROW  229 

to  those  of  the  House- Sparrow,  but  they  are  distinguishable  in  tone 
and  slightly  more  melodious. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  April  to  August,  and  probably  two 
broods  are  reared.  The  nest  is  a  large,  loose  structure  of  dry  grass, 
lined  warmly  with  feathers,  and  it  is  usually  built  in  holes  in  trees 
at  no  very  great  elevation  from  the  ground.  Some  nests  are  built 
under  the  eaves  of  houses  and  in  verandahs  and  old  Swallows'  nests. 

The  clutch  consists  usually  of  four  eggs,  but  five  and  six  are 
sometimes  laid. 

The  egg  is  a  moderately  elongated  oval,  fine  in  texture  and  with 
a  slight  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  white,  with  a  greyish  or  greenish 
tinge,  speckled,  spotted,  streaked,  and  blotched  with  various  shades  of 
brown,  sometimes  thinly  with  a  tendency  for  the  markings  to  collect 
at  the  broad  end,  at  other  times  closely  and  thickly  over  the  whole 
surface  of  the  egg,  almost  concealing  the  ground-colour. 

The  egg  measures  about  0*75  by  0-55  inches. 


THE  WHITE-CAPPED  BUNTING 

EMBERIZA  STEWARTI  Blyth 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Male  :  The  top  of  the  head  and 
the  ear-coverts  pale  grey  ;  a  broad  black  line  over  the  eye  ;  chin  and 
upper  throat  black,  produced  down  the  sides  of  the  lower  throat 
which  with  the  fore-neck  is  white  ;  sides  of  the  head  streaked  with 
fulvous  and  rufous  ;  upper  plumage  chestnut,  the  concealed  portions 
of  the  wings  dark  brown  ;  tail  brown  margined  with  rufous,  the  two 
outer  pairs  of  feathers  white  ;  a  broad  gorget  over  the  breast  chestnut ; 
remainder  of  lower  plumage  pale  fulvous. 

In  fresh  autumn  plumage  the  colours  are  obscured  with  dull 
fringes  to  the  feathers  but  these  gradually  wear  off  revealing  the 
colours. 

Female :  Upper  plumage  ashy-brown  streaked  with  blackish 
except  on  the  sides  of  the  face  ;  a  patch  above  the  base  of  the  tail 
chestnut  with  blackish  feather-shafts ;  wings  brown,  the  feathers 
edged  with  fulvous  ;  tail  brown  margined  with  rufous,  the  two  outer 
pairs  of  feathers  almost  entirely  white  ;  lower  plumage  pale  fulvous 
streaked  with  brown. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  brown,  paler  below  ;  legs  pinkish-fleshy. 

Bill  conical  and  sharply  pointed,  the  edges  of  the  two  mandibles 
not  completely  in  contact. 

Field  Identification. — Western  Himalayas,  extending  to  North-west 
India  in  winter;  a  quiet,  unobtrusive  little  bird,  often  in  parties  in 

P2 


230          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

bushes  and  trees ;  male,  chestnut  above  with  a  chestnut  band  across 
the  breast,  greyish-white  top  to  the  head  and  blackish  face  markings  ; 
female,  dull-brown  streaked  darker  ;  in  both  sexes  the  flash  of  white 
feathers  at  the  edge  of  the  tail  is  conspicuous. 

Distribution. — Breeds  in  Turkestan,  Afghanistan,  Baluchistan, 
Kashmir,  and  the  Western  Himalayas  as  far  as  West  Nepal,  at  heights 
from  4000  to  10,000  feet.  From  September  to  April  it  moves  down 
into  the  foot-hills  and  extends  into  the  plains  of  the  Punjab  .and 
Western  United  Provinces,  Rajputana  and  Central  India. 

A  smaller  and  duller  species  resident  in  the  Peninsula  is  the 
Striolated  Bunting  (Emberiza  striolatd),  which  is  found,  usually  in 
dry  stony  hills,  in  North-west  India  as  far  as  Etawah,  Saugor,  and 
Cutch.  It  is  a  brownish-looking  bird  with  a  grey  head,  streaked 
with  black. 

Habits,  etc. — This  Bunting  is  somewhat  local  in  its  distribution, 
but  when  and  where  it  occurs  it  is  usually  very  numerous,  avoiding 
thick  forest  and  barren  plains  and  preferring  scrub-jungle  on  the 
edges  of  cultivation.  It  feeds  mostly  on  the  ground,  collecting 
minute  seeds,  and  except  in  the  breeding  season  is  generally  found 
in  loose  scattered  flocks,  which  when  disturbed  fly  up  and  take 
refuge  in  the  trees.  When  not  feeding  the  flocks  sit  stolidly  in  trees 
and  bushes.  The  call-note  is  a  twitter,  rather  like  that  of  a  Linnet, 
and  the  breeding  song  is  of  the  usual  dull,  reeling  note  of  the  genus. 

The  breeding  season  in  our  area  is  from  May  to  July. 

The  nest  is  a  cup  composed  of  roots,  dry  grass,  and  fibres,  and  is 
situated  in  a  hollow  in  the  face  of  a  bank  or  rock,  generally  fairly 
well  screened  with  hanging  grass.  The  clutch  varies  from  three  to 
five  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  short,  broad,  regular  oval,  fine  in  texture  but  with 
only  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  white,  mottled  and  clouded 
all  over  with  pale  purple-grey  or  slaty-grey,  and  superimposed  are 
a  few  small  dark  brown  spots. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-78  by  0-59  inches. 


THE  MEADOW-BUNTING 
EMBERIZA  CIA  Linnaeus 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Head,  throat  and 
upper  breast  pale  bluish-grey,  marked  with  two  broad  black  lines 
along  the  crown,  a  black  line  through  the  eye,  and  one  passing  from 
the  base  of  the  beak  below  the  ear-coverts  and  circling  behind  them 
up  to  the  crown  ;  remainder  of  body  plumage  chestnut-brown,  on 


THE    MEADOW-BUNTING  231 

the  back  darker  and  streaked  with  black  ;  wings  blackish-brown, 
the  feathers  edged  with  rufous  and  chestnut ;  tail  blackish-brown, 
the  central  feathers  edged  with  chestnut,  the  three  outer  pairs  with 
conspicuous  white  tips. 

In  fresh  autumn  plumage  the  colours  are  obscured  by  pale  fringes 
to  the  feathers  which  gradually  wear 
off. 

Iris  dark  brown ;  bill  plumbeous- 
slate  darker  above  ;  legs  fleshy-yellow. 

Beak  conical  and  sharply  pointed, 
the  edges  of  the  two  mandibles  not 
completely  in  contact. 

Field  Identification. — North-western 
India.      A  chestnut-brown   bird  with       FIG.  33 — Head  of  Meadow  - 
a  pale  head,  conspicuously  lined  with  Bunting     (nat.  size) 

black,  which  shows  a  white  flicker  in 

the  tail  as  it  moves  ;  usually  feeding  on  the  ground,  and  abundant 
in  open  country  round  all  hill  stations  of  the  Western  Himalayas. 

Distribution. — The  Meadow-Bunting  has  a  wide  range  through 
Southern  Europe,  North-western  Africa,  Transcaspia,  the  Himalayas, 
Northern  China,  and  Eastern  Siberia,  and  has  in  consequence  been 
divided  into  a  number  of  geographical  races.  E.  c.  stracheyi  breeds 
throughout  the  Western  Himalayas  from  4000  to  11,000  feet  from 
the  Hazara  country  and  Gilgit  to  about  Kumaon.  It  is  a  resident 
species,  though  it  undergoes  a  certain  amount  of  seasonal  elevational 
movement.  Numbers  of  Meadow-Buntings  appear  in  winter  on  the 
northern  and  western  parts  of  the  Punjab  ;  they,  however,  belong  to 
a  paler  race,  E.  c.  par,  which  breeds  from  Transcaspia  to  Chitral. 

Habits,  etc. — In  the  Western  Himalayas  this  strikingly-marked 
little  Bunting  is  one  of  the  commonest  birds.  It  avoids  thick  forest 
and  is  found  on  all  the  more  open  hill-sides  in  cultivation  and  grass- 
land alike,  searching  the  ground  and  herbage  for  seeds  and  insects, 
or  creeping  about  the  roads  and  paths,  where  its  tameness  contrives 
to  bring  it  into  universal  notice.  It  is  very  partial  to  the  more 
open  patches  of  deodar  forest,  isolated  on  otherwise  bare  hill-sides. 
Although  almost  entirely  a  ground-feeder,  it  flies  up  into  the  trees 
when  disturbed,  and  its  note,  a  slow,  melancholy  squeak,  is  one  of  the 
most  familiar  sounds  of  the  Western  Himalayas.  The  song  is  very 
poor,  a  mere  jangle  of  odd  notes  and  squeaks,  uttered  either  from  a 
tree  or  on  the  ground. 

The  breeding  season  is  very  extended,  lasting  from  April  to 
September,  and  two  or  three  broods  are  probably  reared. 

The  nest  is  a  rather  large  but  loosely  built  cup  of  dry  grass,  bents, 
roots,  and  similar  materials,  lined  with  fine  roots  and  hair.  It  is 
usually  placed  on  the  ground  under  a  large  stone  or  in  herbage  at 


232  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

the  foot  of  a  bush  or  bank  or  between  the  rough  stone  blocks  of  the 
terrace  walls  of  hill  cultivation  ;  but  occasionally  it  is  built  in  the 
thick  foliage  of  a  tree,  2  or  3  feet  from  the  ground. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  to  five  eggs,  but  the  normal  number 
is  probably  three.  The  egg  is  a  moderately  elongated  oval,  close 
and  delicate  in  texture  with  very  little  gloss.  The  ground-colour 
is  pale  greenish-white,  grey,  or  pale  stone-colour.  The  markings 
consist  of  the  most  delicate  and  intricate  tracery  of  blackish-brown 
lines  drawn  over  faint  and  pale  inky-purple  streaks  and  marbling. 
These  markings  tend  to  be  confined  as  a  cap  or  zone  to  the  broad 
end  of  the  egg.  Here  and  there  a  dark  spot,  like  a  fly  caught  in  a 
spider's  web,  is  seen  amongst  the  network  of  lines,  which  are  so 
characteristic  of  the  eggs  of  the  Bunting  family,  and  are  familiar  to 
all  through  the  English  Yellow-hammer. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-83  by  0-63  inches. 


THE  BLACK-HEADED  BUNTING 
EMBERIZA  MELANOCEPHALA  Scopoli 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Male :  Top  and  sides  of  the 
head  black ;  a  yellowish  collar  on  the  hind  neck  connected  with 
the  deep  yellow  of  the  entire  lower  plumage ;  remainder  of  upper 
plumage  and  lesser  wing-coverts  deep  orange-chestnut ;  the  upper 
tail-coverts  brown  ;  wings  and  tail  dark  brown  edged  with  ashy- 
fulvous. 

In  fresh  autumn  plumage  the  colours  are  much  obscured  with 
dark  fringes  to  the  feathers  which  gradually  wear  off. 

Female :  Upper  plumage  fulvous-brown  streaked  with  dark 
brown  ;  wings  and  tail  dark  brown  edged  with  fulvous  ;  entire  lower 
plumage  delicate  fulvous,  washed  with  ochraceous  on  the  breast  and 
becoming  yellow  towards  the  tail. 

Iris  dark  brown ;  bill  pale  greenish-horn,  browner  above  ;  legs 
fleshy-brown. 

The  bill  is  conical  and  pointed  and  the  edges  of  the  mandibles 
do  not  entirely  meet. 

Field  Identification. — Winter  visitor  to  the  plains  in  flocks,  often 
particularly  abundant.  Females  are  streaked  brown  birds ;  males 
are  chestnut  above,  yellow  below,  with  black  heads ;  yellow  is  the 
dominant  impression  given  by  the  flocks  which  are  usually  found  in 
crops,  flying  up  into  trees  when  disturbed, 

Distribution. — This  bird  breeds  in  South-eastern  Europe,  Asia 
Minor,  Palestine,  Syria,  Upper  Mesopotamia,  and  Persia,  but  not 
within  our  limits,  where  it  is  only  a  winter  visitor.  It  crosses  to  and 


THE    BLACK-HEADED    BUNTING  233 

from  India  by  a  route  over  the  western  boundary  of  Sind,  passing 
through  Sind  in  August  and  September  and  again  in  March  and 
April ;  thence  it  spreads  into  the  plains  generally  as  far  east  as  Delhi, 
Nagpur  and  Chanda,  and  as  far  south  as  Belgaum. 

The  Red-headed  Bunting  (Emberiza  bruniceps)  is  another  species 
with  much  yellow  in  the  plumage,  the  males  being  distinguished  by 
a  chestnut  head.  It  is  also  found  in  flocks  as  a  winter  visitor  to  the 
greater  part  of  India.  The  wide  breeding  range  includes  Baluchistan. 

Habits,  etc. — As  we  know  it  in  India,  this  Bunting  appears  in 
very  large  flocks,  sometimes  in  company  with  the  allied  Red-headed 
Bunting.  It  affects  cultivation  and  scrub-jungle  and  feeds  chiefly  on 
grain  and  seeds. 

On  the  spring  passage  vast  clouds  of  these  birds  may  be  seen  in 
the  ripening  crops ;  on  being  flushed  they  fly  into  the  nearest  tree, 
making  it  appear  a  yellow  mass,  and  it  is  noteworthy  that  these 
flocks  then  consist  almost  entirely  of  males.  These  flocks  are  very 
bold  and  are  only  driven  with  difficulty  from  a  field  where  they  have 
decided  to  feed,  and  owing  to  their  numbers  they  can  be  responsible 
for  a  good  deal  of  damage.  In  the  autumn  they  also  do  a  certain 
amount  of  damage  to  jowar  and  similar  crops,  but  on  that  passage 
they  are  not  usually  so  noticeable. 

The  breeding  season  is  about  May  in  Western  Asia  and  South- 
eastern Europe.  The  nest  is  a  cup  of  straw  and  grass  lined  with 
hair  and  roots  and  it  is  usually  placed  in  a  vine,  a  bush  or  a  small 
tree.  The  clutch  consists  of  four  to  six  eggs,  and  these  are  pale 
greenish-blue,  spotted  throughout  with  ashy-brown  and  grey,  but 
mostly  towards  the  broad  end. 

They  measure  about  0*87  by  0-62  inches. 


THE  CRESTED  BUNTING 

MELOPHUS  LATHAMI  (Gray) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Male  :  Entire  plumage  including 
a  pointed  crest  black,  except  the  wing,  tail  and  thighs  which  are 
chestnut,  some  of  the  feathers  being  tipped  with  black. 

In  fresh  autumn  plumage  the  feathers  have  ashy  fringes  which 
gradually  wear  off. 

Female :  Crest  less  conspicuous ;  upper  plumage  dark  brown, 
the  feathers  edged  paler;  wings  and  tail  dark  brown  much  marked 
with  cinnamon ;  lower  plumage  dull  buff  streaked  and  mottled  on 
the  throat  and  breast  with  dark  brown  and  growing  more  rufous 
under  the  tail. 


234 


POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 


Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  blackish,  fleshy  at  lower  base  ;  legs  fleshy- 
brown,  toes  darker. 

Field  Identification. — A  solitary  bird,  found  about  bushes  on  rocky 
hill-sides ;  conspicuous  pointed  crest ;  male  black  with  chestnut 
wings  and  tail;  female  much  paler,  brownish  with  cinnamon-tinged 
wings  and  tail. 

Distribution. — The  Crested  Bunting 
is  found  along  the  Outer  Himalayas 
from  Hazara  to  Bhutan,  at  elevations 
up  to  5000  or  6000  feet.  In  the 
plains  it  is  found  from  the  Koochawan 
Hills  and  Mount  Aboo  across  to  Ben- 
gal and  as  far  south  as  Mahableshwar 
and  Satara.  Farther  east  it  extends 
to  Assam,  portions  of  Burma  and  to 
China.  It  is,  however,  very  local  and 
capricious  in  its  distribution,  and  is 
locally  migratory,  Indian  birds  all 
belong  to  the  race  E.  I.  subcristata. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Crested  Bunting 
is  in  the  main  a  solitary  bird,  though 
occasionally  it  collects  into  small 
parties  of  four  or  five  individuals. 
It  avoids  both  bare  plains  and  forests 
and  is  essentially  a  bird  of  rocky  hills  or  of  open  cultivation  on  the 
hill-sides,  where  stony  ground  and  low  scrub-jungle  provide  fairly 
undisturbed  resorts  for  it.  It  feeds  on  the  ground  at  all  times  of  the 
day  collecting  small  grass  seeds,  but  perches  and  sings  on  the  tops  of 
bushes.  When  old  buildings  and  walls  are  found  in  the  locality  it  is 
very  partial  to  them,  perching  on  them  and  seldom  moving  far  away. 

In  demeanour  the  Crested  Bunting  is  a  vivacious,  lively,  bold 
little  bird,  usually  carrying  the  crest  erect.  On  the  ground  and 
walking  its  attitude  is  very  Peacock-like.  The  head  and  breast  are 
held  very  upright,  while  the  tail,  which  seems  to  trail  behind,  is 
rather  expanded.  It  has  a  pretty,  little  simple  call,  but  the  song  of 
the  male  is  rather  monotonous,  one  or  two  notes  only,  constantly 
repeated. 

The  nests  are  rather  variable ;  some  are  loosely  constructed, 
shallow  saucers  made  of  grass  roots  without  lining  ;  others  are  neat 
cups  of  grass  and  moss,  lined  with  fine  grass,  fibres,  and  the  roots 
of  moss  and  ferns  or  horse-hair.  They  are  placed  in  holes  in  banks, 
in  walls,  under  rocks,  or  in  heavy  herbage  on  the  ground. 
The  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  rather  broad  oval,  usually  blunter  towards  the  small 
end ;  there  is  very  little  gloss.  The  ground-colour  varies  from 


FIG.  34 — Head  of  Crested 
Bunting     ( j-J  nat.^size) 


THE    CRESTED    BUNTING  235 

pale  greenish- white  to  pale  stone-colour ;  the  markings  consist  of 
spots,  freckles  and  blotches  of  red,  brown  and  purple,  usually  most 
dense  about  the  broad  end.  These  eggs  entirely  lack  the  fine  hair- 
lines and  scroll-like  writing  so  characteristic  of  the  eggs  of  the  true 
Buntings. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-79  by  0-63  inches. 


THE  INDIAN   SAND-MARTIN 

RlPARIA   PALUDICOLA   (Vicillot) 

Description. — Length  4  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  whole  upper 
plumage  greyish-brown,  most  of  the  feathers  margined  paler ;  wings 
and  tail  darker  brown  ;  lower  plumage  pale  grey,  growing  whitish 
towards  the  tail. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  dark  brown. 

The  bill  is  very  weak  and  flat,  with  a  broad  gape,  the  wings  long 
and  pointed  and  the  tail  slightly  forked. 

Field  Identification. — Common  plains  Swallow,  incessantly  flying 
about  sandy  banks  of  water-channels  in  which  its  nest-tunnels  are 
excavated.  Highly  gregarious,  small  and  plain,  dull  brownish,  paler 
below. 

Distribution. — India,  Assam  and  Burma  and  eastwards  to  Southern 
China,  Formosa  and  the  Philippines.  It  is  found  throughout  the 
greater  part  of  India  from  about  the  Central  Punjab  and  the  Indus 
valley  in  Sind  on  the  west,  and  the  Himalayan  foot-hills  on  the  north, 
down  to  the  Bombay  Presidency,  the  Deccan  and  Cuttack.  While 
not  strictly  migratory  it  moves  about  a  good  deal  locally.  The  Indian 
race  is  R.  p.  brevicaudata.  It  must  be  carefully  distinguished  from 
the  Common  Sand-Martin  (Riparia  riparia),  which  has  the  under 
parts  white  with  a  well-defined  brown  collar  across  the  breast  and  a 
small  tuft  of  feathers  on  the  back  of  the  tarsus  above  the  hind  toe. 
This  has  two  races  in  India.  R.  r.  indica  breeds  in  the  North-west 
Frontier  Province  and  the  North-western  Punjab,  while  R.  r.  dilutay 
which  breeds  in  Western  Siberia,  visits  North-western  India  down 
to  Sind  in  winter. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Sand-Martin  is  extremely  gregarious  in  its 
habits,  spending  its  whole  life  in  flocks  whether  in  or  out  of  the 
breeding  season.  It  is  amongst  the  earliest  of  breeding  birds  in 
India,  nesting  generally  from  November  to  February,  though  in 
some  localities  birds  will  be  found  at  the  nest-holes  as  late  as  May. 
The  colonies  nest  in  sandy  cliffs  and  banks,  generally  choosing  those 
in  the  vicinity  of  running  water,  though  occasionally  they  occupy 
banks  over  ponds  or  in  dry  nullahs.  They  feed  almost  invariably 


236  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

in  the  vicinity  of  water  and  spend  the  greater  part  of  their  lives 
hawking  insects,  high  or  low  in  the  air  according  to  circumstances, 
over  the  surface  of  swiftly-flowing  rivers  or  the  placid  waters  of 
jheels  and  tanks.  When  not  at  the  breeding  colonies  they  roost 
in  reed-beds  and  are  early  astir  in  the  mists  of  dawn,  flitting  hither 
and  thither  like  phantom  moths  and  welcoming  the  day  with  their 
loud  hard  squeaks.  They  have  no  objection  to  the  presence  of  man, 
and  hawk  freely  over  and  about  the  houses  of  water-side  villages ; 
while  a  forest  fire  with  its  wholesale  dispersal  of  insect  life  is  sufficient 
to  draw  them  from  their  usual  haunts,  in  company  with  other  insecti- 
vorous birds  to  share  the  feast.  The  alarm-note  is  a  harsh  ret  and 
the  song  is  a  chattering  twitter,  not  so  agreeable  as  that  of  most  other 
Martins  and  Swallows. 

The  nest  is  a  slight  pad  of  grass  lined  with  feathers.  It  is  placed 
in  a  chamber  at  the  end  of  a  narrow  tunnel,  a  foot  or  two  long,  which 
is  excavated  by  the  bird  itself  in  a  sandy  bank,  numbers  of  nest- 
holes  being  situated  together  in  colonies.  The  clutch  varies  from 
three  to  five  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  slightly  elongated  oval,  rather  pointed  towards  the 
smaller  end ;  the  texture  is  fine  and  delicate  and  there  is  no  gloss. 
The  colour  is  pure  white,  without  markings. 

In  size  the  egg  averages  about  0-68  by  0-48  inches. 


THE  DUSKY  CRAG-MARTIN 
RIPARIA  CONCOLOR  (Sykes) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage, 
wings  and  tail  dark  sooty-brown,  a  white  spot  on  the  inner  web  of 
all  the  tail-feathers  except  the  central  and  outermost  pairs  ;  cheeks, 
chin,  throat  and  fore-neck  rufescent  streaked  with  brown,  remainder 
of  lower  plumage  rufescent  grading  into  sooty-brown. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  brown. 

The  bill  is  very  weak  and  flat,  with  a  broad  gape,  the  wings  long 
and  pointed,  and  the  tail  slightly  forked. 

Field  Identification. — Plains  species,  generally  in  twos  and  threes 
about  houses.  Distinguish  from  Sand-Martin  by  larger  size,  much 
darker  colour,  and  by  the  row  of  white  spots  on  the  tail ;  also  by  the 
difference  in  nesting  habits. 

Distribution. — This  is  a  purely  Indian  and  Burmese  species, 
the  typical  race  extending  from  the  foot  of  the  Himalayas  down  to 
the  Nilgiris.  On  the  west  it  is  found  very  locally  about  Kohat  and 
Bannu  and  in  the  South-eastern  Punjab,  and  it  occurs  in  Rajputana 


THE    DUSKY    CRAG-MARTIN  237 

though  not  in  Sind.  On  the  east  it  extends  to  Behar  and  Chanda. 
It  is  a  resident  species. 

This  species  may  be  easily  confused  with  the  larger  Crag-Martin 
(Riparia  rupestris)  which  breeds  in  the  Himalayas  and  is  fairly  common 
in  winter  in  the  hills  of  Western  India  from  Mount  Aboo  to  the  Palnis. 

Habits,  etc, — Although  generally  distributed  and  familiar  enough 
from  its  habit  of  breeding  in  towns,  this  little  Martin  is  never  very 
abundant  and  does  not  gather  into  the  immense  flocks  in  which  others 
of  the  family  may  at  times  be  found.  A  few  may  be  seen  wherever  a 
range  of  cliffs  or  the  ancient  ruins  of  forts  or  mosques  provide  a  shady 
lee  in  which  they  sail  backwards  and  forwards  in  a  very  leisurely 
manner.  Usually  two  or  three  will  be  found  together,  and  as  they 
hawk  about  they  call  to  each  other  a  soft,  melodious  chit-chit-chit, 
uttered  rapidly.  In  some  of  the  older  towns  they  nest  on  the  houses 
and  then  may  be  seen  in  the  streets  hawking  above  the  heads  of 
passers-by,  though  usually  they  prefer  places  that  are  not  much 
frequented  by  mankind. 

The  breeding  season  is  extended,  lasting  from  January  to  October 
according  to  locality  ;  two  broods  are  reared. 

The  nest  is  a  semicircular  cup  composed  of  pellets  of  mud,  and 
coming  down  into  a  well-defined  point  beneath.  It  is  applied  by 
the  side  to  a  perpendicular  surface  of  wall  or  rock,  but  usually  in 
sheltered  positions  in  a  niche  or  under  a  ledge  in  a  cliff,  or  under 
balconies  and  eaves  of  houses.  The  nest  is  lined  first  with  soft 
flowering  grasses  and  fragments  of  straw  and  then  with  feathers. 
The  nests  are  never  built  in  colonies,  though  chance  may  cause  two 
or  three  pairs  to  occupy  any  suitable  site. 

The  eggs  are  rather  elongated  ovals,  sometimes  rather  pointed 
towards  the  small  end.  The  texture  is  fine  and  fragile  with  a  slight 
gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  white,  and  they  are  all  more  or  less 
thickly  speckled  and  spotted,  and  sometimes  blotched,  with  different 
shades  of  yellowish-  and  reddish-brown.  These  markings  tend  to 
collect  towards  the  broad  end. 

In  size  the  eggs  average  about  0-72  by  0-52  inches. 


THE  WIRE-TAILED   SWALLOW 
HIRUNDO  SMITHII  Leach 

Description. — Length  5  inches,  with  a  lengthened  wire-like  shaft 
to  the  outer  pair  of  tail-feathers  7  inches  extra.  Sexes  alike,  except 
that  the  wire  is  shorter  in  the  female.  Top  of  the  head  bright  chestnut ; 
sides  of  the  head  and  neck  and  the  whole  upper  plumage  glossy 
steel-blue,  concealed  portions  of  the  wings  and  tail  dark  brown  ;  all  the 


238          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

tail-feathers  except  the  two  central  pairs  with  a  white  spot  on  the 
inner  web  ;  lower  plumage  white. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Bill  weak  with  a  broad  gape  ;  wings  long  and  pointed. 

Field  Identification. — PJains  and  lower  hills ;  invariably  near 
water.  A  dark  steel-blue  swallow,  with  chestnut  cap  and  white  under 
parts.  At  a  close  range  the  wires  in  the  tail  afford  easy  identification, 
but  at  a  distance  it  may  be  recognised  from  any  other  swallow  by  the 
pure  shining  white  of  the  lower  surface  and  wing  lining. 

Distribution. — The  Wire-tailed  Swallow  is  divided  into  two  races  ; 
one  is  purely  African  and  is  found  in  various  parts  of  that  continent. 
H.  s.  filifera,  the  Indian  race,  is  widely  spread,  ranging  from  the 
Himalayas  where  it  is  found  up  to  5000  feet  south  to  Mysore  and 
the  Nilgiris.  On  the  west  it  ranges  to  the  North-west  Frontier  Province 


FIG.  35 — Wire-tailed  Swallow     (f  nat.  size) 

and  Sind.  On  the  east  it  is  found  as  far  as  Bengal,  reappearing  again 
in  Pegu  and  Tenasserim.  In  the  main  a  resident  bird,  it  is  also 
migratory  in  many  areas. 

The  familiar  Swallow  of  Europe  (Hirundo  rustled)  breeds  along 
the  Himalayas,  in  very  great  numbers  in  Kashmir,  and  occurs  through- 
out India  in  winter.  The  combination  of  the  long  forked  tail,  absence 
of  a  pale  rump  band,  the  red  throat  patch  and  dark  gorget  and  the 
warm  creamy  flush  to  the  white  under  parts  allow  of  easy  identification. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Wire-tailed  Swallow  is  essentially  a  bird  of 
the  neighbourhood  of  water.  In  particular  it  is  fond  of  the  great 
canals  of  Northern  India,  skimming  over  their  surface  with  its  long 
tail-wires  conspicuous  and  its  bright  colours  flashing  in  the  sun. 
Where  canals  are  not  available  it  frequents  the  neighbourhood  of 
rivers,  streams  and  jheels,  and  also  is  partial  to  rice  fields ;  but  in 
heavy  forest,  in  desert  areas,  and  over  wide  cultivated  plains  it  will  not 
be  found. 


THE    WIRE-TAILED    SWALLOW  239 

This  species  never  collects  or  breeds  in  colonies,  though  family 
parties  are  seen  in  the  breeding  season,  and  on  migration  a  few  join 
the  flocks  of  other  migrating  Swallows  and  Martins.  The  twittering 
note  and  short  sweet  song  are  very  similar  to  those  of  other  Swallows. 
This  species  perches  very  freely  on  telegraph-wires  and  the  parapets 
of  bridges  and  wells,  but  it  does  not  as  a  rule  perch  on  trees,  and  only 
descends  to  the  ground  to  gather  mud  for  its  nest. 

Long  after  they  are  able  to  fly  the  young  are  fed  in  the  air  by  the 
old  birds,  parent  and  youngster  circling  round  and  round,  and  then 
with  a  complacent  twitter  clinging  together  for  an  instant  during 
which  the  mouthful  of  insects  is  transferred. 

The  breeding  season  is  very  prolonged  and  two  broods  are  reared  ; 
most  eggs  will  be  found  from  March  to  August,  the  time  varying 
with  the  locality,  but  eggs  have  been  found  in  every  month  of  the 
year  except  December. 

The  nest  is  a  rather  shallow  cup  composed  of  mud  pellets, 
fastened  at  one  side  to  a  slanting  or  perpendicular  surface  of  wall 
or  rock.  It  is  lined  with  feathers.  The  situation  chosen  may  be 
under  a  bridge  or  culvert,  under  shelves  of  rock,  or  in  the  arches 
and  under  the  roofs  of  buildings.  If  not  immediately  over  water, 
where  it  is  very  often  within  a  foot  or  two  of  the  surface,  it  is  always 
in  its  near  vicinity,  and  nests  have  been  recorded  even  down  inside 
wells.  Most  of  the  building  is  done  by  the  female,  the  male  accompany- 
ing her  but  not  as  a  rule  carrying  any  mud. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs.  In  shape  they  are  a 
long  narrow  oval,  rather  pointed  at  the  smaller  end.  The  texture  is 
fine  and  delicate  with  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  white 
and  the  markings  consist  of  speckles,  spots  and  blotches  of  reddish- 
brown  and  brownish-red  ;  there  is  the  usual  tendency  for  the  markings 
to  collect  towards  the  broad  end. 

The  eggs  measure  about  0*72  by  0-53  inches. 


THE    CLIFF-SWALLOW 
HIRUNDO  FLUVICOLA  Jerdon 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Top  of  the  head 
dull  chestnut  with  black  shaft-streaks  ;  a  broad  line  through  the  eye 
dull  brown  ;  back  and  shoulders  glossy  steel-blue  ;  wings,  tail  and 
rump  dull  brown  ;  entire  lower  plumage  white,  more  or  less  tinged 
with  fulvous  and  streaked  with  brown,  except  on  the  abdomen. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  dark  brown. 

The  tail  is  very  slightly  forked  ;  bill  weak  with  a  broad  gape  ; 
wings  long  and  pointed. 

Field  Identification. — Plains  species,  highly  gregarious,  nesting  in 


240  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

colonies  near  water  and  building  immense  clusters  of  mud  nests. 
Very  similar  in  size,  shape  and  demeanour  to  Sand-Martins  (with 
which  it  often  flies),  but  distinguished  by  the  chestnut  cap  and  blue- 
black  back. 

Distribution. — A  purely  Indian  species.  It  is  found  through  a 
considerable  portion  of  India,  from  Rawal  Pindi  and  the  foot-hills 
of  the  Himalayas  (up  to  2500  feet)  in  the  north  to  Coimbatore  in  the 
south.  On  the  west  its  boundary  is  not  accurately  known,  but  it  is 
not  found  in  Bind  or  the  South-western  Punjab  ;  it  extends  to  the  east 
as  far  as  Gonda,  Mirzapur  and  the  Wardha  Valley.  A  local  migrant. 

Another  small  species,  the  Nilgiri  Swallow  (Hirundo  javanica), 
with  steel-blue  upper  parts,  chestnut  throat  and  grey  below,  is  a 
common  resident  in  the  higher  hill  ranges  of  South-western  India. 
It  is  very  familiar  about  dwellings  and  builds  the  ordinary  cup  type  of 
mud  nest. 

Habits,  etc. — This  is  one  of  the  purely  social  Swallows,  spending 
all  its  life  both  in  and  out  of  the  breeding  season  in  big  flocks  which 
never  separate.  It  is  somewhat  local  and  erratic  in  its  distribution, 
but  within  its  range  it  abounds  wherever  there  is  water,  in  combination 
with  cliffs  or  masonry  against  which  it  can  plaster  its  huge  nest  colonies. 

The  flocks  usually  hawk  about  in  the  near  vicinity  of  water,  often 
in  company  with  Sand-Martins,  which  in  flight  they  somewhat 
resemble.  On  the  wing  the  birds  sing  very  often,  the  feeble  twittering 
song  typical  of  the  family.  They  drink  a  good  deal,  sweeping  down 
and  taking  mouthfuls  from  the  surface  of  the  water,  and  the  newly- 
fledged  young  are  fed  on  the  wing. 

This  species  is  double-brooded,  nesting  from  February  to  April, 
and  again  in  July  and  August.  The  nest  is  made  of  tiny  pellets  of 
clay  which  the  birds  collect  from  the  ground  with  their  beaks,  and  it 
consists  of  a  small  circular  chamber  entered  through  a  short  tubular 
mouth.  This  entrance  tube  is  not  applied  to  the  surface  against 
which  the  nest  is  constructed,  after  the  fashion  of  the  Striated  Swallows, 
but  it  sticks  out  from  the  side  of  the  nest  into  the  air  free  of  attach- 
ment. Numbers  of  nests  are  built  together  in  a  cluster,  and  with 
their  tubular  mouths  they  present  rather  a  peculiar  appearance,  some- 
what like  a  honeycomb  in  which  each  cell  is  a  separate  nest.  A  colony 
may  consist  of  any  number  of  nests,  from  twenty  to  about  six  hundred, 
so  that  in  the  areas  which  it  inhabits  this  Swallow  is  often  very  abundant. 
The  nests  are  lined  with  dry  grass  and  feathers. 

The  favourite  site  for  one  of  the  colonies  is  on  the  face  of  over- 
hanging cliffs  or  beneath  the  arches  of  masonry  bridges ;  but 
perpendicular  sites,  like  the  walls  of  buildings,  are  not  despised,  and 
the  bird  appears  to  be  indifferent  whether  the  colony  is  in  a  secluded 
lonely  spot  or  in  a  busy  thoroughfare  ;  but  the  close  vicinity  of  water 
is  essential. 


THE    CLIFF-SWALLOW  241 

The  clutch  consists  normally  of  three  eggs,  but  four  are  sometimes 
found. 

The  egg  is  variable  in  shape  but  is  normally  a  long  oval,  pointed 
towards  the  smaller  end.  The  texture  is  fine  and  delicate,  with  a 
slight  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  pure  white,  some  eggs  being 
unmarked,  others  being  slightly  mottled,  speckled  or  clouded  with 
pale  yellowish-  or  reddish-brown.  These  markings  tend  to  congregate 
at  the  broad  end. 

The  eggs  measure  about  0-76  by  0-53  inches. 


THE    RED-RUMPED    SWALLOW 
HIRUNDO  DAURICA  Linnseus 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
glossy  steel-blue,  except  the  rump  which  is  chestnut ;  concealed 
portions  of  wings  and  tail  dark  brown,  an  indistinct  white  patch  on 
the  inner  web  of  the  outermost  tail-feather  ;  sides  of  the  head  mixed 
rufous  and  brown,  the  ear-coverts  and  a  more  or  less  distinct  collar 
round  the  neck  chestnut ;  the  whole  lower  plumage  pale  rufous  finely 
streaked  with  brown. 

Iris  brown  ;   bill  and  legs  black. 

The  bill  is  weak  and  small  with  a  wide  gape  ;  wings  long  and 
pointed  ;  tail  deeply  forked. 

Field  Identification. — Rather  more  deliberate  in  flight  than  the 
other  true  Swallows,  and  the  tail  appears  differently  shaped  owing  to 
the  different  angle  of  the  fork ;  seen  from  above  the  chestnut  rump 
is  unmistakable,  and  from  below  the  uniformly  striated  under  parts. 

Distribution. — The  Red-rumped,  Striated  or  Mosque  Swallows 
are  a  widely-spread  group  which  occur  from  Southern  Europe  and 
Africa  to  China,  and  in  this  great  range  are  divided  into  a  number 
of  races.  Within  our  area  we  are  concerned  with  four  :  H.  d.  erythro- 
pygia  breeds  throughout  the  plains  of  India  from  about  4000  feet 
along  the  Outer  Himalayas  down  into  the  Nilgiris  ;  on  the  west  it 
extends  to  Cutch,  the  Punjab  and  the  North-west  Frontier  Province 
(though  not  apparently  to  Sind) ;  and  on  the  east  to  about  Calcutta. 
In  the  Himalayas  it  is  replaced  by  H.  d.  nipalensis  as  a  breeding  bird  ; 
to  the  west  this  form  breeds  in  a  higher  zone  from  4000  to  about  9000 
feet ;  to  the  east  it  replaces  H.  d.  erythropygia  even  in  the  foot-hills. 
This  race  is  rather  larger,  with  a  more  deeply-forked  tail,  the  rump 
patch  is  paler  in  colour,  and  the  under  parts  are  more  heavily  striated. 
A  third  form,  H.  d.  scullii,  like  the  last  in  colour  but  smaller,  comes 
into  our  area  as  a  breeding  bird  in  Kashmir,  Gilgit  and  the  Afghan 
and  Baluchistan  borders.  H.  d.  japonica,  breeding  in  Manchuria, 
China  and  Japan,  appears  in  India  as  a  winter  visitor.  All  races  are 

Q 


24* 


POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 


to  some  extent  migratory,  and  in  winter  all  will  be  found  in  similar 
localities  in  the  plains,  but  their  movements  require  working  out. 

Habits,  etc. — Like  other  members  of  the  family  these  Swallows 
are  chiefly  remarkable  for  their  nesting  habits.  During  the  breeding 
season  they  are  found  in  pairs  which  frequent  the  neighbourhood  of 
buildings  and  therefore  of  man,  and  from  their  tameness  attract  his 
attention.  On  migration  and  during  the  winter  they  collect  into 
small  parties  or  into  flocks  numbering  up  to  200  or  300  individuals. 
They  spend  the  greater  part  of  the  hours  of  daylight  on  the*  wing, 
flying  backwards  and  forwards  over  a  self-appointed  beat,  hawking 
insects  on  the  wing,  occasionally  resting  on  telegraph-wires  and  more 


FIG.  36 — Red-rumped  Swallow    (J  nat.  size) 

rarely  on  trees  and  buildings.  The  flight  is  slower  and  more  deliberate 
than  that  of  the  English  Swallow  and  the  note  is  rather  different,  a 
plaintive  pin.  The  nest  is  a  remarkable  structure  of  fine  mud  pellets 
collected  by  the  birds,  a  mouthful  at  a  time,  from  the  edges  of  puddles, 
and  it  takes  several  weeks  to  build  ;  it  is  usually  described  as  "  retort- 
shaped,"  and  is  always  built  under  rocks  or  culverts  or  bridges  or 
under  the  ceilings  of  houses  and  verandahs  ;  a  narrow  tubular  passage, 
like  a  white  ant  gallery  on  a  large  scale,  some  2  inches  in  diameter  and 
from  4  to  10  inches  in  length,  runs  along  the  under  surface  of  the  rock 
or  roof  and  enters  a  round  hemispherical  chamber  also  applied  to  the 
under  surface  of  the  site  and  with  no  other  entrance  than  the  passage. 
The  whole  affair  is  rather  large  for  the  size  of  the  birds,  and  the  egg- 
chamber  is  sparingly  lined  with  pieces  of  dry  grass  and  feathers.  The 
same  site  is  used  year  after  year,  though  the  actual  nest  is  usually 
destroyed  by  the  elements. 


PLATE  XII 


Rufous-fronted  Wren-Warbler.     2.   Lesser    Whitethroat.     3.   Chiffchaff. 
4.  Large  Crowned  Willow- Wren.  5.  Indian  Wren- Warbler. 

6.  Brown  Hill-  Warbler.     (All  about  §  nat.  size.) 

[Face  p.  242 


THE    RED-RUMPED    SWALLOW  243 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  April  to  August,  but  July  is  the 
month  in  which  most  eggs  will  be  found  ;  probably  because  a  structure 
of  dry  mud  would  be  more  likely  to  give  way  under  the  influence  of 
the  dry  heat  before  the  rains  commence. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  three  eggs  though  four  may  be 
found.  They  are  long,  oval  in  shape,  slightly  compressed  towards 
one  end,  with  shells  of  exquisite  fineness  and  with  a  very  slight  gloss. 
The  colour  is  pure  unmarked  white. 

They  average  about  0-78  by  0-55  inches. 


THE  WHITE  WAGTAIL 

MOTACILLA  ALBA  Linnams 
(Plate  xiv,  Fig.  6,  opposite  page  286) 

Description. — Length  8  inches.  Male  in  winter  plumage :  A 
patch  on  the  back  of  the  head  roughly  connected  with  a  crescentic 
gorget  on  the  breast  black ;  remainder  of  head  and  lower  plumage 
white,  tinged  with  ashy  on  the  flanks  ;  upper  plumage  ashy-grey  ; 
wings  black,  the  feathers  broadly  margined  with  grey  and  white  ; 
tail  black,  the  two  outer  pairs  of  feathers  largely  white. 

In  summer  plumage  from  the  chin  to  the  breast  is  black. 

The  female  is  duller  and  less  distinctly  marked. 

The  above  description  applies  to  the  adult  winter  male  of  M.  a. 
dukhunensiSj  but  the  species  is  very  variable  in  its  plumage  according 
to  age  and  season,  as  are  the  other  races,  and  the  identification  of  these 
Wagtails  is  a  matter  of  much  study.  A  rough  guide  to  Indian  birds  is 
given  below. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;   bill  and  legs  black. 

Field  Identification.— The  White  Wagtails  are  small,  dainty  birds 
of  black,  white  and  grey  plumage,  which  walk  about  on  the  ground, 
usually  in  parties,  incessantly  wagging  their  long  tails  up  and  down  ; 
partial  to  the  neighbourhood  of  water,  wading  in  shallow  portions  of  it. 

Distribution. — The  White  Wagtail  is  a  very  widely-spread  species, 
breeding  in  various  forms  almost  throughout  Europe,  North-western 
Africa  and  Northern  Asia.  The  dark  resident  form  of  the  British 
Isles  is  known  under  the  familiar  name  of  the  Pied  Wagtail.  Four  of 
these  races  are  found  commonly  in  various  parts  of  India.  The  only 
one  of  these  four  that  breeds  with  us  is  M.  a.  alboides,  which  is  the 
common  breeding  Wagtail  of  Kashmir,  parts  of  the  higher  Himalayas 
and  Southern  Tibet.  In  the  winter  it  moves  down  into  the  foot-hills 
from  Kashmir  to  Assam  and  also  Burma.  M.  a.  personata  breeds  in 
Turkestan,  Gilgit,  Afghanistan  and  Eastern  Persia,  and  is  common  in 
the  plains  of  India  in  winter,  extending  to  Belgaum  in  the  south  and 


244  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

Calcutta  in  the  east.  It  commences  to  arrive  in  August  and  September 
and  departs  in  April  and  May. 

M.  a.  dukhunensis  is  the  West  Siberian  breeding  race  whose 
range  extends  west  to  the  Caucasus,  Volga  and  Urals.  It  arrives 
about  September  and  October  and  leaves  again  in  April  and  May, 
having  spread  meanwhile  throughout  the  whole  of  the  plains  down 
to  Travancore. 

M.  a.  leucopsis  breeds  in  Eastern  Siberia  and  China,  and  in  winter 
visits  the  eastern  side  of  India  to  about  Nepal  and  Mirzapur  on  the 
west  and  also  Assam  and  Burma. 

The  four  races  of  White  Wagtail  that  occur  in  India  afford  a 
curious  case  of  parallelism ;  they  may  be  divided  into  two  sections 
by  the  colour  of  the  ear-coverts  and  sides  of  the  neck,  and  in  each  of 
these  sections  in  full  breeding  plumage  one  form  has  the  back  grey 
and  the  other  black.  All  four  races  of  White  Wagtail  can  easily  be 
distinguished  from  the  Large  Pied  Wagtail  by  their  white  foreheads, 
the  black  on  the  head  extending  to  the  base  of  the  beak  in  the  latter 
species,  which  also  has  a  different  series  of  moults  and  plumages. 

M.  a.  dukhunensis  and  M.  a.  leucopsis  both  have  the  ear-coverts 
and  sides  of  the  neck  white.  In  the  former  bird  the  back  is  grey 
and  in  the  latter  black  in  breeding  plumage. 

M.  a.  personata  and  M.  a.  alboides  have  the  ear-coverts  and  sides 
of  the  neck  black.  In  breeding  plumage  here  also  the  first  form  is 
grey  on  the  back  and  the  latter  black. 

In  all  four  races  the  back  normally  becomes  grey  in  winter  plumage, 
though  usually  a  few  black  feathers  remain  in  the  black-backed  forms 
to  indicate  the  type  of  summer  plumage.  M.  a.  leucopsis  and  M.  a. 
dukhunensis  may  then,  however,  be  separated  by  the  greater  wing- 
coverts,  which  have  their  outer  webs  entirely  white  in  the  former 
and  merely  margined  with  white  in  the  latter.  M.  a.  personata  and 
M.  a.  alboides  have  no  distinguishing  mark  in  the  absence  of  black 
feathers  on  the  back.  There  is,  however,  a  great  deal  of  variation  in  the 
plumage  of  Wagtails  in  India  in  winter,  and  considerable  study  is 
required  before  individuals  can  be  correctly  identified. 

Habits,  etc. — In  winter  the  habits  of  all  four  races  of  White  Wagtail 
are  very  similar,  and  indeed  two  or  three  races  may  often  be  found 
associating  together.  The  White  Wagtail  is  a  sociable  bird,  usually 
occurring  in  parties  which  collect  together  into  large  flocks  about  the 
migration  periods  and  often  associate  with  other  species.  They  occa- 
sionally perch  in  trees  or  on  buildings,  but  most  of  their  time  is  spent 
feeding  on  the  ground,  preferably  in  damp  places  or  actually  about  the 
margins  of  water,  into  which  they  wade  freely.  Forest  country  is 
avoided,  and  in  very  dry  localities  they  are  comparatively  scarce. 
Where  possible  they  roost  in  reed  beds  anjl  at  suitable  places  very 
large  numbers  of  White  Wagtails,  Yellow  Wagtails,  and  Yellow-headed 


THE    WHITE    WAGTAIL  245 

Wagtails  collect  together  at  night.  The  most  marked  characteristic  is 
indicated  by  the  name  ;  as  the  bird  runs  about — for  it  never  hops — the 
long  tail  is  incessantly  wagged  up  and  down.  The  flight  also  is  very 
characteristic  in  long,  dipping  curves,  and  on  the  wing  the  call-note 
chiz-zit  is  constantly  uttered.  The  song  is  a  pleasant  but  poor 
performance. 

Our  only  breeding  race  builds  in  Kashmir  from  May  to  July,  a 
cup-nest  on  or  near  the  ground,  in  hollows  under  stones  or  in  heaps 
of  drift  wood.  The  nest  is  composed  of  dry  grasses,  roots,  bents,  and 
similar  rubbish,  and  the  cup  is  lined  with  hair.  The  clutch  consists  of 
four  or  five  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  rather  broad  oval,  pointed  towards  the  small  end, 
fine  in  texture  with  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  greyish- 
white,  speckled  and  spotted  finely  and  closely,  with  pale  brown  and 
brownish-grey.  There  is  a  tendency  for  the  markings  to  be  thicker  at 
the  broad  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-78  to  0*62  inches. 


THE  LARGE  PIED  WAGTAIL 

MOTACILLA   MADERASPATENSIS   Gmelin 

Description. — Length  9  inches.  Adult  male  :  A  broad  white 
streak  over  the  eye  from  the  nostril  to  behind  the  ear ;  head,  upper 
breast  and  entire  upper  plumage  black  ;  wings  black,  the  quills  finely 
edged  with  white,  and  a  broad  tapering  white  patch  running  the 
whole  length  of  the  folded  wing  ;  tail  black,  the  two  outer  pairs  of 
feathers  largely  white  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  white,  tinged 
with  ashy  on  the  flanks.  The  female  resembles  the  male,  but  the 
black  is  not  so  pure  in  tone  being  usually  mixed  with  ashy-brown. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Field  Identification. — Found  singly  or  in  small  family  parties  by 
water,  walking  about  on  the  ground  and  wagging  the  long  tail.  Rather 
larger  and  darker  than  the  White  Wagtails,  and  has  the  black  of  the 
forehead  extending  to  the  beak  and  enclosing  a  white  eye  streak. 
The  only  species  of  Wagtail  that  breeds  in  India  south  of  the  Himalayas. 

Distribution. — Confined  to  India  and  Ceylon.  This  Wagtail 
occurs  throughout  India  from  the  North-west  Frontier  Province 
and  Sind  (where  it  is  rare)  to  the  Duars  and  Western  Bengal,  and 
from  the  Outer  Himalayas,  which  it  ascends  to  5000  feet,  to  Cape 
Comorin  ;  in  the  Nilgiris  it  is  found  at  all  elevations  in  the  neighbour- 
hood of  water.  It  avoids  the  low  country  of  Bengal  proper.  A  purely 
resident  species. 

Habits,  etc. — This  Wagtail  is  found  solitary,  in  pairs  or  in  family 
parties,  in  the  neighbourhood  of  water,  provided  that  it  be  running 

Q2 


246  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

water  or  ponds  or  tanks.  In  ordinary  marshy  ground,  beloved  of  the 
Yellow  Wagtails,  it  is  not  usually  found.  It  feeds  along  the  edges  of 
the  water,  searching  for  insects,  the  long  tail  incessantly  wagging  up 
and  down  as  the  bird  trips  along.  It  perches  freely  on  rocks  and 
buildings,  but  practically  never  settles  on  trees.  It  is  curiously  partial 
to  the  clumsy  ferry-boats  that  ply  on  the  larger  Indian  rivers,  and  not 
only  perches  and  voyages  on  them,  but  on  occasion  even  nests  in  them. 
The  flight  of  this  and  other  Wagtails  is  rather  distinctive,  jerky  ,^  with 
an  incessant  rise  and  fall  in  the  air  in  a  series  of  undulating  curves  ; 
and  they  share  with  the  Larks  and  Pipits  the  distinction  of  being  the 
smallest  birds  that  walk  and  run  on  the  ground  as  opposed  to  hopping 
like  Robins  and  Sparrows.  The  call-note  is  a  loud  chiz-zit^  chiefly 
uttered  in  flight,  and  there  is  a  short  musical  song. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  March  to  May,  but  eggs  have  been 
found  in  December  and  January  on  the  Cauvery. 

The  nesting  habits  of  this  species  are  very  variable  ;  it  will  nest  in 
any  sort  of  hole  provided  that  it  is  close  to  water,  though  it  occasionally 
stretches  this  definition  to  include  the  drainage  holes  on  roofs.  In 
such  places  it  either  lays  its  eggs  on  bare  earth  in  the  .bottom  of  the 
hole,  or  makes  the  very  scantiest  of  nests  consisting  of  a  few  blades 
of  grass,  or  a  tolerably  well-made  cup  of  all  sorts  of  varied  materials, 
grass,  hair,  wool,  tow,  roots,  fibres,  string  and  the  like.  In  fact, 
Hume's  description  of  it  as  an  irregularly-minded  bird  is  the  only 
just  way  of  describing  its  nesting  habits. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  four  eggs,  though  three  or  five  are 
sometimes  laid.  The  eggs,  too,  are  variable,  either  long  or  broad  ovals 
in  shape,  rather  pointed  towards  the  smaller  end.  The  ground-colour 
varies  from  pale  brownish  to  greenish-white.  The  markings  are  clouds, 
smudges,  streaks,  spots  and  specks  of  brown  of  various  shades  in  every 
possible  combination. 

In  size  the  egg  measures  about  0-9  by  0-65  inches. 


THE    GREY    WAGTAIL 

MOTACILLA   CINEREA   Tunstall 

Description. — Length  8  inches.  Male  and  female  in  winter 
plumage  :  The  upper  plumage  bluish-grey  tinged  with  green  ;  a  patch 
at  the  base  of  the  tail  yellowish-green  ;  a  dull  whitish  line  over  the 
eye  ;  wings  dark  brown,  edged  with  yellowish -white ;  tail  black, 
margined  with  greenish,  the  three  outer  pairs  of  feathers  almost 
entirely  white  ;  chin,  throat  and  fore-neck  white  ;  remainder  of  lower 
plumage  yellow,  growing  brighter  towards  the  tail. 

In  summer  plumage  in  the  male  the  chin,  throat  and  fore-neck 


THE    GREY    WAGTAIL  247 

become  black,  bordered  with  a  broad  white  moustachial  streak,  and 
with  white  tips  to  the  black  feathers. 

In  the  summer  plumage  of  the  female  the  yellow  is  less  brilliant 
than  in  the  male,  and  a  variable  mixture  of  black,  white  and  dull 
yellow  take  the  place  of  the  black  patch  of  the  male. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  horn-colour,  paler  at  the  lower  base  ;  legs  fleshy- 
brown. 

Field  Identification. — A  solitary  bird,  generally  about  water. 
Differs  from  all  the  other  Wagtails  in  the  comparatively  longer  and 
more  slender  tail  and  in  the  blue-grey  colour  of  the  upper  parts.  In 
flight  the  long  tail  and  sulphur-yellow  belly  and  under  tail-coverts 
are  conspicuous. 

Distribution. — The  Grey  Wagtail  is  widely  distributed,  chiefly 
about  mountain  streams,  in  Europe  and  Northern  Asia,  migrating 
southwards  to  Africa  and  Southern  Asia  in  winter.  It  is  divided  into 
races,  of  which  only  one  concerns  us. 

This  Eastern  race  (M.  c.  melanope)  breeds  from  the  Yenesei  across 
Siberia  to  the  Pacific  and  south  to  the  Himalayas.  In  winter  it  spreads 
throughout  the  plains  of  India  to  Ceylon,  and  eastwards  to  Malaysia. 

Habits,  etc. — During  the  breeding  season  in  the  Himalayas  the 
Grey  Wagtail  is  essentially  a  bird  of  the  mountain  streams  and  rivers 
where  they  flow  with  considerable  strength  through  boulder-strewn 
beds.  In  winter  when  it  appears  in  India  from  August  until  April,  it 
is  seldom  able  to  discover  these  conditions,  and  then  has  to  be  content 
with  tripping  about  the  margins  of  a  variety  of  tamer  waters,  and 
even  with  feeding  on  roads  and  other  waterless  places.  It  is  a  solitary 
species,  and  does  not  gather  into  flocks  like  the  other  Wagtails. 
The  call-note  is  a  rather  shrill  tzit-zee,  which  is  chiefly  uttered  on 
the  wing  as  the  bird  takes  to  flight  and  flies  swiftly  away  low  over  the 
ground,  rising  and  falling  in  buoyant  curves  and  exhibiting  conspicuous 
glimpses  of  the  sulphur-yellow  of  the  lower  plumage.  The  tail-wagging 
of  the  genus  is  most  pronounced  in  this  species  owing  to  the  compara- 
tively greater  length  of  tail. 

The  breeding  season  in  the  Himalayas  is  in  May  and  June. 

The  nest  is  a  neat  cup  of  grasses,  bents  and  various  roots  and  fibres, 
thickly  lined  with  hair.  It  is  built  on  the  ground  under  boulders  in 
river-beds,  or  amongst  stones  and  herbage  at  the  edge  of  streams. 

The  clutch  consists  of  four  or  five  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  broad  oval,  rather  compressed  and  pointed  towards 
the  smaller  end,  with  a  fine  hard  texture  but  little  gloss.  The  ground- 
colour is  yellowish  or  brownish-white,  closely  mottled  and  clouded  all 
over  with  pale  yellowish-brown  and  brownish-yellow,  with  a  very 
uniform  effect.  A  black  twisted  hair-line  or  two  is  generally  present 
about  the  broad  end. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-70  by  0-54  inches. 


248          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

THE  YELLOW  WAGTAIL 
MOTACILLA  FLAVA  Linnaeus 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Male  in  fresh  winter  plumage  : 
Top  of  the  head  bluish-grey,  the  feathers  tipped  with  olive ;  upper 
plumage  dull  olive-brownish,  wings  dark  brown,  edged  with  fulvous ; 
tail  black,  narrowly  edged  with  olivaceous,  the  two  outer  pairs  of 
feathers  white ;  a  broad  band  on  the  sides  of  the  head  dark  slaty- 
blackish  ;  the  whole  lower  plumage  yellow  sullied  about  the  breast. 
In  a  few  individuals  there  are  traces  of  a  white  line  over  the  eye. 

Male  in  fresh  summer  plumage  :  Top  of  the  head  dark  slaty-grey  ; 
upper  plumage  yellowish-green  ;  wings  and  tail  as  in  winter  but  with 
the  feather  edges  of  the  wings  decidedly  yellowish  ;  a  broad  band  on 
the  sides  of  the  head  black  ;  the  whole  lower  plumage  bright  yellow. 
Traces  of  a  narrow  white  line  over  the  eye  are  sometimes  visible. 

Female  :  Resembles  the  male,  but  has  the  head  green  and  upper 
parts  dark  olive-brown,  greenish-olive  on  the  rump,  the  yellow  of  the 
lower  plumage  paler  and  more  sullied  on  the  breast,  and  the  band  on 
the  sides  of  the  head  duller  and  browner  ;  a  fulvous  line  over  the  eye 
is  generally  present. 

This  description  applies  to  typical  specimens  of  the  race  M.  f. 
thunbergi.  Race,  age  and  sex  cause  great  variation  in  the  plumages 
of  this  species  which  needs  expert  study. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  blackish-brown,  paler  at  base  of  lower  mandible  ; 
legs  dark  horn. 

Field  Identification. — Plains  except  in  the  summer ;  typical  Wag- 
tails found  in  mixed  flocks  containing  two  or  three  forms,  of  which  a 
small  proportion  are  in  bright  adult  plumage,  greenish  above  yellow 
below,  while  the  majority  are  in  dull  nondescript  plumages ;  always 
feeding  on  the  ground  in  damp  grassy  spots,  active  and  wagging  their 
tails. 

Distribution. — In  the  Yellow  Wagtails  we  have  a  most  difficult 
group  of  birds  ;  the  adult  males  may  be  distinguished  with  a  certain 
amount  of  ease,  but  females  and  young  birds  are  exceedingly  hard  to 
discriminate,  and  the  whole  group  needs  a  great  deal  of  study  before 
one  can  claim  to  know  even  a  little  about  them.  Here  it  is  possible 
only  to  indicate  the  outlines  of  the  subject. 

Formerly  it  was  the  custom  to  treat  the  various  forms  of  Yellow 
Wagtail  as  separate  species.  More  recently  various  groupings  have 
been  adopted,  but  here  I  prefer  to  treat  them  as  geographical  races 
of  one  widely-distributed  species  which  breeds  throughout  the  greater 
part  of  Europe  and  the  Mediterranean  countries  and  Northern  Asia, 
and  migrates  southward  in  winter. 


THE    YELLOW    WAGTAIL  249 

No  race  breeds  in  India,  but  we  are  concerned  with  the  following 
three  forms  as  common  winter  visitors  : — 

Syke's  Yellow  Wagtail  (M.  /.  beemd)  breeds  in  West  Siberia. 
Winters  in  India,  south  to  Belgaum  and  the  Cumbum  Valley  and 
east  to  Calcutta. 

The  Grey-headed  Yellow  Wagtail  (M.  /.  thunbergi)  breeds  in 
North  Scandinavia,  Russia  and  Siberia  ;  migrates  through  Europe 
to  Africa  and  to  every  portion  of  India,  Ceylon  and  Burma. 

The  Eastern  Black-headed  Wagtail  (M.  /.  melanogrisea)  breeds 
in  Turkestan  and  winters  in  India  south  to  Belgaum  and  east  to 
Benares. 

The  following  key  will  serve  to  indicate  the  salient  differences  in 
the  adult  males  of  the  three  races  in  summer  plumage  : — 

M.  f.  beema. — Crown  paler  grey ;    cheeks  white  ;    a  broad  and 

distinct  white  superciliary  streak  over  the  eye. 
M.  f.    thunbergi. — Crown    dark    slaty-grey ;     cheeks    blackish ; 

superciliary  streak  very  indistinct  or  absent. 
M.   f.    melanogrisea. — Crown    black ;     cheeks    and    ear-coverts 
deep  black  ;  superciliary  streak  very  indistinct  or  absent. 

Care  must,  however,  be  taken  not  to  confuse  the  Yellow  Wagtails 
with  the  three  races  of  the  Yellow-headed  Wagtail  (Motacilla  citreold) 
that  also  appear  in  India  in  winter,  and  of  which  one  race  breeds 
commonly  in  the  Himalayas.  The  adult  males  of  this  species  have 
the  entire  head  bright  yellow,  and  at  all  ages  and  seasons  the  Yellow- 
headed  Wagtails  may  be  distinguished  from  the  Yellow  Wagtails  by  a 
broad  yellow  superciliary  streak  and  by  a  certain  amount  of  yellow  on 
the  forehead. 

An  olive-brown  Wagtail  with  two  black  bands  across  the  breast, 
which  wags  its  tail  from  side  to  side,  not  up  and  down,  is  the  Forest 
Wagtail  (Dendronanthus  indicus),  found  chiefly  in  North-east  India, 
Assam,  Burma,  and  Southern  India. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Yellow  Wagtails,  as  we  know  them  in  winter, 
are  birds  of  marked  and  typical  habit.  They  commence  to  arrive  in 
Northern  India  at  the  end  of  August  and  pass  through  on  passage 
until  about  October ;  they  start  to  return  to  Northern  India  about 
February  and  have  left  again  by  the  end  of  April.  Farther  south  of 
course  their  status  varies  proportionately. 

They  are  found  in  flocks  mingled  irrespective  of  race,  and  spend 
their  days  feeding  on  the  ground  in  open  grassy  places,  preferably 
damp  in  character,  or  about  the  edges  of  jheels  or  in  the  pastures 
that  surround  the  larger  rivers.  They  are  very  partial  to  the  neighbour- 
hood of  droves  of  cattle,  feeding  all  round  the  legs  of  the  grazing  animals, 
no  doubt  finding  that  their  presence  attracts  or  disturbs  a  varied 
insect  life.  In  suitable  places  very  large  numbers  collect,  and  morning 
and  evening  they  flight  in  a  most  conspicuous  manner,  travelling  at  a 


250  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

moderate  height  above  the  ground  with  the  dipping  flight  and  shrill 
chiz-zit  calls  which  are  common  to  all  Wagtails.  They  roost  at  night  in 
reed-beds,  and  suitable  places  are  used  by  immense  congregations  of 
the  various  forms  of  Yellow  Wagtails,  Yellow-headed  Wagtails  and 
White  Wagtails. 

In  their  northern  quarters  the  Yellow  Wagtails  breed  about  June, 
building  a  well-concealed  nest  of  grasses  and  bents  with  a  thick  lining 
of  hair.  It  is  placed  on  the  ground  in  thick  vegetation  in  low-lying, 
damp  ground  or  cultivation. 

The  eggs  vary  from  four  to  seven  in  number,  and  are  rather 
broad  ovals,  pointed  towards  the  small  end,  with  a  fine  texture  and 
little  gloss.  They  are  ochraceous-grey  or  brown  in  colour,  so  finely 
speckled  as  to  be  almost  uniform,  and  generally  exhibit  one  or  two 
black  hair  streaks. 

In  size  the  eggs  average  about  0-75  by  0-55  inches. 


THE  INDIAN  TREE-PIPIT 
ANTIIUS  HODGSONI  Richmond 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  whole  upper 
plumage  brown  with  a  greenish  tinge,  the  feathers  streaked  or  centred 
with  blackish  except  on  the  rump  ;  wing  dark  brown,  margined  with 
fulvous  ;  tail  dark  brown,  the  two  outer  pairs  of  feathers  tipped 
diagonally  with  white  ;  a  broad  streak  over  the  eye  fulvous,  growing 
white  posteriorly  ;  lower  plumage  pale  fulvous,  the  whole  breast  and 
sides  of  the  throat  boldly  streaked  with  black  ;  flanks  washed  with 
olivaceous  and  faintly  streaked. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  dark  brown,  base  of  lower  mandible  fleshy  ; 
legs  flesh-colour. 

In  summer  the  greenish  tinge  wears  off,  and  the  eye  streak  becomes 
white. 

Field  Identification. — A  small  brown  bird,  whitish  below,  streaked 
with  blackish  above  and  about  the  breast ;  found  in  parties  feeding 
on  the  ground  in  shady  spots  and  flying  up  into  the  trees  when  dis- 
turbed ;  has  a  faint  plaintive  note  and  wags  the  shortish  tail  after  the 
fashion  of  a  Wagtail,  only  more  slowly. 

Distribution. — This  Pipit  breeds  in  Siberia,  Northern  China,  and 
Japan,  and  on  the  higher  Himalayas  about  7000  to  12,000  feet.  In 
winter  it  migrates  southwards  to  Southern  Japan,  Southern  China, 
Cochin-China,  and  India.  At  that  season  it  is  found  in  India  through- 
out the  greater  portion  of  the  plains,  occurring  as  far  west  as  Rajputana 
and  Guzerat,  and  in  the  foot-hills  of  the  Himalayas  to  Dharamsala. 


THE    INDIAN    TREE-PIPIT  251 

Southwards  it  extends  to  the  Palni  Hills.  Himalayan  breeding  birds 
are  heavily  streaked  and  belong  to  the  race  A.  h.  berezowskii.  Most 
birds  found  in  winter  in  the  Peninsula  belong  to  the  lightly  streaked 
typical  form. 

The  closely-allied  Tree-Pipit  (Anthus  trivialis)  which  lacks  the 
greenish  tinge  on  the  upper  parts  and  has  a  less  conspicuous  eye- 
stripe  fulvous  throughout,  is  a  winter  visitor  practically  throughout 
India.  It  breeds  in  Europe  and  Northern  Asia,  including  the  higher 
ranges  of  the  Western  Himalayas. 

Hodgson's  Pipit  (Anthus  roseatus)  which  breeds  at  high  elevations 
in  the  Himalayas  and  winters  in  Northern  India  and  Assam,  is  rather 
similar  to  these  two  Pipits  but  may  be  recognised  from  them  and  all 
other  Indian  forms  by  the  primrose-yellow  under  wing-coverts.  In 
breeding  plumage  the  throat  and  breast  become  vinaceous. 

Habits,  etc. — In  winter  this  Pipit  is  found  in  small  parties  which 
frequent  fairly  open  country  with  plenty  of  shady  trees  ;  they  are 
partial  to  gardens,  groves  of  mango  trees  and  similar  situations,  and 
feed  quietly  on  the  ground  in  sparse  herbage,  collecting  small  insects 
and  the  seeds  of  grass  and  weeds.  When  disturbed  they  fly  up  into 
the  nearest  tree  with  a  short  plaintive  call  and  wait  quietly  there  until 
the  coast  is  clear  for  them  to  resume  their  feeding.  When  in  trees 
they  walk  about  on  the  boughs  in  a  manner  unusual  amongst  small 
passerine  birds,  and  have  a  habit  of  swaying  their  tails  up  and  down, 
after  the  fashion  of  a  Wagtail.  The  flight  is  rather  slow  and  dipping, 
similar  to  that  of  the  latter  bird.  In  the  breeding  season  the  male 
has  a  fine  song,  Lark-like  in  character,  rather  than  the  usual  wheezy 
Pipit  song.  It  is  uttered  as  the  bird  flies  into  the  air  and  then  volplanes 
with  wings  and  tail  outspread  down  to  the  ground  or  to  the  topmost 
twig  of  a  tree. 

The  breeding  season  in  the  Himalayas  is  from  May  to  July.  The 
nest  is  a  shallow  cup  composed  of  moss  and  dry  grass,  lined  with 
fine  dry  grass-stems  and  a  few  hairs,  and  it  is  placed  in  a  hollow  in 
the  ground,  in  the  shelter  of  a  tuft  of  foliage  or  a  creeping  plant,  such 
as  Cotoneaster.  It  is  built  either  on  an  Alpine  pasture  above  the  limits 
of  tree-level,  or  in  open  grassy  glades  in  the  midst  of  the  higher 
mountain  forests.  The  bird  is  very  shy  at  the  nest  and  is  then  observed 
with  difficulty,  either  disappearing  into  the  forests  or  rising  into  the 
air  in  a  series  of  jerky  flights.  When  flushed  off  the  nest  it  sometimes 
flutters  down  the  hill-side  as  if  wounded. 

The  clutch  consists  of  four  eggs.  The  egg  is  a  slightly  elongated 
oval,  rather  pointed  towards  the  small  end  ;  the  texture  is  fine  with 
a  slight  gloss.  In  colour  the  eggs  are  closely  speckled  with  dingy 
rather  purplish-brown,  so  closely  and  evenly  marked  that  no  ground- 
colour is  visible. 

They  measure  about  0-90  by  0-65  inches. 


asa  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

THE    INDIAN    PIPIT 

ANTHUS  RUFULUS  Vieillot 
(PTate  XIV,  Fig.  i,  opposite  page  286) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
fulvous-brown,  the  feathers  centred  with  blackish-brown ;  a  fulvous 
streak  over  the  eye ;  wings  dark  brown  margined  with  fulvous  ;  tail 
dark  brown,  the  outermost  feather  almost  entirely  white,  the  next  to 
it  with  an  oblique  white  tip ;  lower  plumage  pale  fulvous,  darker  on 
the  flanks,  the  sides  of  the  throat  and  fore-neck  and  the  whole  breast 
streaked  with  dark  brown. 

Iris  brown ;  bill  brown,  base  of  lower  mandible  yellow ;  legs 
flesh-colour. 

The  claw  of  the  hind  toe  is  long  and  slender,  longer  than  the  toe 
itself. 

Field  Identification. — A  small  brown  bird,  pale  fulvous  below  and 
streaked  on  the  breast,  which  runs  about  on  the  ground,  rising  with 
a  plaintive  note  and  a  flash  of  white  in  the  tail,  to  settle  again  but  a 
short  distance  away.  Distinguished  from  the  Tree-Pipits  by  the  long 
hind  claw  and  the  fact  that  it  does  not  settle  in  trees.  It  must,  however, 
be  remembered  that  several  species  of  Pipit  are  locally  common  in 
India,  and  their  identification  is  a  matter  of  considerable  knowledge 
and  experience. 

Distribution. — This  Pipit  occurs  throughout  practically  the  whole 
of  India,  Burma  and  Ceylon,  breeding  in  the  plains  and  also  in  suitable 
places  in  the  Himalayas  and  other  ranges  up  to  about  5000  feet. 
Farther  east  it  extends  to  Siam,  Lombok  and  Timor.  In  the  main  it  is 
a  resident  species  though  it  performs  certain  local  migrations.  There 
are  several  races.  The  typical  race  is  found  throughout  the  greater 
part  of  India,  being  replaced  in  the  Punjab  and  Sind  by  the  pale 
A.  r.  waitei  and  in  the  south-west  and  Ceylon  by  the  darker  A.  r. 
malayensis. 

Practice  is  required  to  tell  this  species  from  the  Tawny  Pipit 
(Anthus  campestris),  a  winter  visitor  to  most  of  India  except  the  extreme 
south.  It  is  slightly  larger,  more  sandy  in  colour,  and  when  adult 
unspotted  on  the  breast. 

There  are  two  very  large  Pipits  (length  8  inches)  in  India,  easily 
separated  by  the  length  of  the  hind  claw.  The  Brown  Rock  Pipit 
(Anthus  similis)  breeds  in  the  Western  Himalayas,  Baluchistan,  the 
Salt  Range,  the  Western  Ghats  and  the  Nilgiris.  It  has  a  short  hind 
claw.  Richard's  Pipit  (Anthus  richardi)  with  a  long  hind  claw  is  a 
winter  visitor  to  India,  most  common  in  Bengal  and  the  Madras 
Presidency. 


THE    INDIAN    PIPIT  253 

Habits,  etc. — This  Pipit  is  essentially  a  bird  of  cultivation  with 
low  crops  and  of  grass-land  ;  it  is  particularly  partial  to  the  stretches 
of  sandy  soil  with  closely-grazed  grass  which  are  found  about  the 
margins  of  jheels  and  in  the  dry  beds  of  the  larger  rivers.  Here  it 
runs  and  feeds  on  the  turf,  rising  when  disturbed  with  the  slightly 
plaintive  note  which  is  typical  of  the  genus.  It  is  usually  found  in 
pairs,  which  are  jealous  of  their  respective  territories,  driving  away 
birds  of  the  same  species  and  possible  enemies  such  as  Shrikes. 

This  Pipit  perches  freely  on  bushes  and  tufts  of  grass,  but  usually 
only  when  breeding ;  it  does  not  settle  on  trees.  In  the  breeding 
display  the  male  rises  in  the  air  in  one  ascending  succession  of  dipping 
curves,  uttering  all  the  time  a  jangling,  rather  Bunting-like  song ; 
arrived  at  the  highest  point  in  the  air  he  then  falls  to  earth  again, 
in  an  abrupt  curve,  with  stiff,  partly  extended  wings.  When  disturbed 
suddenly  from  the  nest  the  female  flutters  along  the  ground  as  if 
wounded,  a  habit  common  to  most  of  the  Pipits. 

The  breeding  season  extends  from  March  to  July  and  two  broods 
are  apparently  raised.  The  nest  is  placed  on  the  ground  under  or 
in  the  midst  of  tufts  of  grass  ;  it  is  usually  cup-shaped,  but  in  some 
examples  there  is  a  slight  dome.  It  is  composed  of  dry  shreds  and 
blades  of  coarse  grass,  or  fine  dry  roots,  with  a  slight  lining  of  fine 
pieces  of  root  and  grass  with  a  few  hairs. 

Three  or  four  eggs  are  laid,  but  the  former  number  is  more  common. 

The  eggs  are  moderately  broad  and  rather  perfect  ovals,  scarcely 
pointed  at  all  towards  the  small  end  ;  they  are  hard  in  texture  with 
a  slight  gloss.  In  colour  they  are  brownish-  or  greenish-stone  colour, 
thickly  streaked,  clouded,  and  spotted  with  dull  brownish-  or  purplish- 
red,  with  brown  of  different  shades  and  pale  purplish-grey.  These 
markings  often  tend  to  form  a  cap  at  the  broad  end,  and  altogether 
there  is  a  good  deal  of  variation  in  shape  and  colour  between  different 
clutches. 

They  measure  about  0-8  by  0-6  inches  in  size. 


THE  LITTLE   SKYLARK 

ALAUDA  GULGULA  Franklin 
(Plate  xv,  Fig.  5,  opposite  page  286) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage, 
including  a  short  indistinct  crest,  brown  with  darker  centres  and 
tawny  margins  to  the  feathers ;  a  pale  fulvous  streak  over  the  eye ; 
wings  dark  brown,  the  feathers  margined  with  rufous  ;  tail  dark 
brown,  margined  with  rufous,  the  two  outer  pairs  of  feathers  largely 


254  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

pale  buff ;  lower  plumage  pale  buff,  washed  with  fulvous  on  the  sides 
and  breast,  the  throat  spotted  and  the  chest  streaked  with  brown. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;   bill  and  legs  yellowish-brown. 

The  hind  claw  is  very  long  and  straight. 

Field  Identification. — A  streaked  brown  bird,  huffish-white  below 
and  with  pale  buff  edges  to  the  tail  which  become  conspicuous  in 
flight.  Feeds  and  settles  on  the  ground  in  open  country,  but  sings 
in  a  characteristic  soaring  flight.  Distinguished  from  the  Pipits  by 
the  heavier  build,  short  crest,  the  more  crouching  gait,  and  the  fact 
that  when  approached  it  squats  instead  of  running. 

Distribution. — The  Little  Skylark  is  found  throughout  a  large 
area  of  Southern  Asia  from  Turkestan  eastwards  to  Siam  and  Cochin- 
China  and  southwards  to  Ceylon  and  Tenasserim.  It  is  divided 
into  several  races  distinguished  by  size  and  depth  of  coloration,  and 
these  are  sometimes  treated  as  races  of  the  well-known  Skylark  of 
Europe  (Alauda  arvensis),  of  which  one  race,  A.  a.  intermedia,  arrives 
in  North-western  India  in  winter  in  large  numbers.  It  appears, 
however,  better  to  keep  the  two  species  separate.  We  are  concerned 
with  several  races  of  the  smaller  bird  which  vary  in  small  details  of 
size  and  tint.  The  Turkestan  race,  A.  g.  inconspicua,  just  comes  into 
our  area  in  Baluchistan.  A.  g.  lhamarum  is  the  breeding  bird  of  the 
higher  Himalayas  from  Kashmir  to  Sikkim,  at  heights  from  5000  to 
14,000  feet,  wandering  in  winter  in  flocks  down  to  the  foot-hills.  A.  g. 
weigoldi  breeds  at  high  elevations  in  Bhutan  and  S,  Tibet.  A.  g. 
punjaubi  is  the  pale  bird  of  the  Punjab  and  the  United  Provinces  as 
far  east  as  Moghulserai  and  Dinapur.  A.  g.  australis  is  the  large  and 
dark  bird  of  the  Nilgiris,  Cochin  and  Travancore,  whilst  the  typical 
race  occupies  the  rest  of  Eastern,  Central  and  Southern  India  and  also 
Ceylon. 

The  flocks  of  Skylarks  (A.  a.  intermedia)  which  arrive  in  winter 
may  be  distinguished  by  the  larger  size  and  more  pointed  wing, 
the  5th  primary  falling  short  of  the  tip  of  the  wing  by  over  5  millimetres. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Skylark  is  a  bird  of  open  country,  dwelling 
almost  exclusively  in  cultivation  or  on  grazing  lands  contiguous  to 
it.  In  such  localities  it  lives  and  feeds  on  the  ground,  picking  up 
seeds  and  insects  and  fallen  grains  of  all  the  cultivated  cereals.  On 
the  ground  it  is  quite  inconspicuous,  both  owing  to  its  protectively 
coloured  plumage  and  to  its  habit  of  preferring  to  squat  instead  of 
running  when  approached.  It  squats  as  long  as  possible ;  then 
suddenly  springs  into  life  with  a  liquid  bubbling  chirrup,  and  flies 
low  over  the  ground  with  a  fluttering  undulating  flight,  only  mounting 
high  into  the  air  if  it  proposes  to  travel  far. 

In  spring  the  n^ales  have  a  well-sustained  though  rather  monotonous 
song,  into  which  the  imitations  of  other  birds'  calls  are  introduced. 
When  singing  the  bird  mounts  to  a  great  height  in  the  air,  almost 


THE    LITTLE    SKYLARK  .     255 

vertically,  with  the  head  to  the  wind  and  the  wings  fanning  rapidly ; 
having  attained  its  pitch  it  remains  there  for  a  long  time,  keeping 
roughly  in  the  same  place  ;  it  starts  to  descend  in  the  same  fashion  as 
it  rose,  but  when  it  is  some  25  yards  or  so  from  the  ground  the  song 
ceases,  and  the  bird  falls  rapidly  with  the  wings  held  stiffly  open.  The 
song  is  also  occasionally  uttered  on  the  ground. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  March  to  July,  and  even  later  till 
November  in  the  Southern  Indian  race.  Two  broods  are  reared. 

The  nest  is  placed  on  the  ground  in  a  shallow  depression  scratched 
by  the  birds  themselves,  sheltered  by  a  clod  of  earth,  a  tuft  of  grass 
or  a  small  stunted  bush.  It  is  a  shallow  cup  of  dry  grass,  usually  lined 
with  finer  grasses.  Three  to  five  eggs  are  laid. 

The  egg  is  a  moderately  broad  oval,  rather  pointed  towards  the 
smaller  end,  with  a  fine  silky  texture  and  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground- 
colour is  greyish-  or  yellowish-white,  concealed  almost  entirely  by  the 
markings  which  are  fine  spots  and  f recklings  of  pale  yellowish-brown, 
purplish-brown  or  very  pale  inky-purple. 

In  size  the  eggs  measure  about  0-83  by  0-62  inches. 


THE    SHORT-TOED    LARK 

CALANDRELLA  BRACHY  DACTYL  A  (Leisler) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
pale  greyish  mealy-buff,  the  feathers  streaked  with  blackish-brown  ; 
wings  dark  brown  edged  with  fulvous  ;  tail  dark  brown  edged  with 
fulvous,  the  two  outer  pairs  of  feathers  partly  very  pale  buff ;  a  buff 
streak  over  the  eye  ;  lower  plumage  dull  whitish,  washed  with  brown 
on  the  breast  which  is  sometimes  streaked  ;  a  half-concealed  blackish 
spot  on  each  side  of  the  breast. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  dark  horny-brown,  fleshy  below  ;  legs  brownish- 
flesh-colour. 

Field  Identification. — Winter  visitor  in  large  flocks  to  the  plains 
of  India,  feeding  in  stubbles  and  open  barren  country  ;  a  small  sandy- 
coloured  Lark  with  a  dull  semi-concealed  dark  spot  on  each  side  of  its 
breast  in  place  of  the  usual  streakings. 

Distribution. — The  Short-toed  Lark  is  a  widely  distributed  bird  in 
Europe,  Northern  Africa  and  Asia,  and  is  divided  into  a  number  of 
races,  the  identification  and  distribution  of  which  are  a  matter  of 
considerable  difficulty.  The  differences  are  based  on  small  details 
of  colour,  tint  and  measurement.  Two  forms  are  found  amongst 
the  hordes  which  appear  as  winter  visitors  in  India.  C.  b.  longipennis, 
the  grey-tinted  breeding  bird  of  Eastern  Central  Asia,  is  found  in  the 
north-west  of  India  down  to  a  line  roughly  between  Bombay  and 


256  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

Kumaon  ;  while  to  the  south-east  of  that  line  down  to  about  Belgaum 
and  into  Assam  a  more  rufous  bird  (C.  b.  dukhunensis)  appears. 

A  very  closely  allied  species  (Calandrella  acutirostris)  also  appears 
locally  in  India  in  winter.  This  may  be  distinguished  without  difficulty 
from  the  forms  of  C.  brachydactyla  by  an  examination  of  the  tip  of 
the  wing,  as  it  has  the  first  four  long  primaries  equal,  whereas  in 
C.  brachydactyla  the  fourth  long  primary  is  considerably  shorter  than 
the  first  three  which  are  equal. 

A  third  and  smaller  species  of  Short-toed  Lark,  the  Sand-Lark 
(Calandrella  raytal),  with  two  races  is  found  as  a  resident  in  India. 
This  is  most  easily  distinguished  by  the  fact  that  it  spends  its  whole 
life  about  the  sand-banks  of  the  larger  rivers,  running  about  near  the 
edge  of  the  water. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Short-toed  Lark  is  only  a  winter  visitor  to  India, 
arriving  about  September  and  leaving  in  April.  Numerically  it  must 
be  very  abundant,  as  it  is  found  in  flocks  often  of  large  size,  and  these 
flocks  are  common  in  open  country,  feeding  both  in  stubbles  and 
on  waste  ground  generally,  even  on  that  of  the  most  strictly  desert 
character.  The  food  consists  of  small  seeds,  but  insects  are  also 
eaten.  These  birds  never  perch  except  on  the  ground,  where  owing 
to  their  small  size  and  protective  coloration  they  are  practically  invis- 
ible ;  when  approached  the  birds  of  a  flock  rise  irregularly,  a  dozen 
or  two  at  a  time,  and  when  all  are  in  the  air  they  join  into  a  compact 
flock  which  flies  with  a  peculiarly  free  and  swinging  motion.  The 
call-note  is  low  and  rather  harsh.  This  is  one  of  the  birds  that  is 
eaten  in  India  under  the  name  of  Ortolan,  a  species  which  itself  is 
never  found  amongst  the  great  numbers  of  birds  that  figure  on  the 
table  in  India  under  its  name. 

The  breeding  habits  of  the  Short-toed  Lark  in  its  more  northern 
home  are  similar  to  those  of  other  Larks  ;  a  small  cup  of  dry  grass 
lined  with  wool  and  hair  is  placed  in  a  slight  depression  of  the  ground. 
The  eggs  vary  from  three  to  five  ;  the  ground-colour  is  yellowish- 
or  brownish-white,  finely  freckled  and  spotted  with  brownish-  and 
ashy-grey  spots. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-75  by  0-55  inches. 


THE  BENGAL  BUSH-LARK 
MIRAFRA  ASSAMICA  McClelland 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
dark  ashy-brown  streaked  with  blackish  except  on  the  rump  ;  wings 
dark  brown,  the  coverts  margined  with  pale  ashy  and  the  quills  with 
much  chestnut  on  both  webs  ;  tail  brown  margined  with  ashy  rufous, 


THE   BENGAL   BUSH-LARK  257 

the  two  outer  pairs  of  feathers  largely  edged  with  pale  rufous  ;  sides 
of  the  head  mixed  fulvous  and  brown  ;  chin  and  throat  pale  fulvous- 
white  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  darker  fulvous,  the  breast  coarsely 
streaked  with  triangular  brown  marks. 

Iris  yellowish-brown  ;  bill  dusky,  fleshy-white  below  ;  legs  fleshy- 
white. 

Field  Identification. — Plains  bird,  found  in  open  country  feeding 
on  the  ground  and  perching  often  on  bushes.  Dark  ashy-brown 
above,  fulvous  below  with  much  chestnut  in  the  flight-feathers. 
Distinguish  from  the  Red-winged  Bush-Lark  by  its  rather  heavier 
build  and  darker,  more  ashy  upper  parts. 

Distribution. — This  species  of  Bush-Lark  is  found  throughout 
the  north-eastern  part  of  the  Indian  Peninsula  north  and  east  of  a 
line  drawn  roughly  from  Ambala  district  to  Cuttack,  extending  through 
Bengal  into  Assam  and  thence  into  parts  of  Burma.  A  permanent 
resident  with  no  races. 

The  Singing  Bush-Lark  (Mirafra  javanicd)  may  be  recognised 
from  all  other  Indian  Bush-Larks  by  having  the  inner  web  of  the 
outer  tail-feather  largely  white.  It  is  a  curiously  local  bird,  restricted 
in  places  even  to  particular  fields,  but  its  general  distribution  includes 
almost  the  whole  of  India,  except  the  Lower  Punjab,  Sind,  Western 
Rajputana  and  parts  of  the  Madras  Presidency. 

Habits,  etc. — This  Lark  is  found  in  the  better  watered  and  fairly 
well-wooded  tracts  of  its  range,  frequenting  open  plains  and  cultivated 
fields  and  often  being  seen  on  the  roads.  It  feeds  on  the  ground, 
collecting  small  seeds  and  insects,  but  perches  freely  on  bushes  and 
small  trees,  and  like  the  rest  of  its  genus  has  a  breeding  flight  in  which 
the  rather  weak  song  is  uttered. 

The  breeding  season  is  in  May  and  June. 

The  nest  is  a  loose,  flimsy  pad  of  grass  and  roots,  as  a  rule  too 
loosely  constructed  to  be  removed  undamaged  ;  it  is  placed  on  the 
ground  in  a  depression  overhung  by  tufts  of  grass  and  is  usually 
surmounted  by  a  sketchy  dome  of  grass  and  roots,  with  the  entrance 
hole  at  one  side  or  at  the  top. 

The  number  of  eggs  varies  from  two  to  five.  The  egg  is  a  moder- 
ately broad  oval,  fine  and  delicate  in  texture  with  a  slight  gloss.  The 
ground-colour  is  white,  faintly  tinged  with  grey  or  stone-colour. 
The  markings  consist  of  fine  freckles  and  spots  of  yellowish-  or  pale 
purplish-brown,  with  a  tendency  to  collect  in  a  cap  or  zone  about  the 
broad  end. 

In  size  they  average  about  0-83  by  0-6 1  inches. 


258          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 


THE  RED-WINGED  BUSH-LARK 

MlRAFRA  ERYTHROPTERA  Blyth 
(Plate  xi,  Fig.  5,  opposite  page  220) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
fulvous-brown,  streaked  with  blackish-brown ;  wings  brown,  the 
coverts  edged  with  fulvous,  and  both  webs  of  the  quills  largely  chest- 
nut ;  tail  blackish-brown,  the  central  pair  of  feathers  pale  brown 
margined  with  fulvous,  and  the  two  outer  pairs  of  feathers  partly  pale 
fulvous  ;  a  pale  fulvous  streak  over  the  eye  ;  chin  and  throat  whitish  ; 
remainder  of  lower  plumage  pale  fulvous,  with  triangular  spots  of 
blackish-brown  on  the  breast. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  horny-brown,  fleshy  below  ;   legs  flesh-colour. 

Field  Identification. — A  small  unobtrusive  Lark  found  in  parties 
on  the  ground  in  sandy  scrub-covered  country  broken  with  cultivation  ; 
brown  and  fulvous  in  colour  with  much  chestnut  in  the  flight -feathers. 

Distribution. — Confined  to  India.  Found  throughout  the  whole 
of  India  from  the  outer  foot-hills  of  the  Himalayas  to  about  the 
latitude  of  Nellore  and  east  to  the  longitude  of  Calcutta.  It  is  divided 
into  two  races.  A  pale  race,  named  M.  c.  sindianus,  is  found  in  Lower 
Sindr  in  portions  of  the  Punjab,  in  Jodhpur,  and  eastwards  to  Etawah. 
The  rest  of  the  range  of  the  species  is  occupied  by  the  typical  race. 
A  purely  resident  bird. 

There  is  some  doubt  as  to  whether  the  well-known  Madras  Bush- 
Lark  (Mirafra  affinis)  is  not  really  a  race  of  this  species.  It  is  larger 
and  darker  with  less  chestnut  in  the  wings.  It  is  found  south  of  a 
line  from  Orissa  through  Hyderabad  to  Belgaum  and  also  in  Ceylon 
and  in  general  is  extremely  common. 

Habits^  etc. — This,  like  other  species  of  Bush-Lark,  is  somewhat 
patchily  distributed,  being  common  in  some  localities  and  absent  in 
others  that  appear  equally  suitable.  It  is  typically  a  bird  of  sparse 
desert  scrub-jungle,  where  thorn  bushes,  light  grass  and  euphorbia 
grow  on  a  sandy  soil  mixed  with  outcrops  of  rock,  though  it  may 
also  be  found  in  cultivation.  It  is  usually  collected  in  small  parties, 
which  feed  unobtrusively  on  the  ground,  squatting  at  the  approach 
of  an  intruder  and  then  suddenly  springing  into  flight ;  they  fly 
fairly  fast  but  with  an  erratic  rather  hesitating  course,  as  if  unable 
to  decide  in  which  direction  to  proceed,  and  soon  settle  again  after 
being  disturbed.  In  the  breeding  season  the  male  has  a  singing 
flight  in  the  air,  parachuting  down  to  settle  either  on  the  ground 
or  on  the  top  of  a  euphorbia  or  other  bush.  This  species  often  perches 
on  telegraph-wires. 

The  breeding  season  is  rather  irregular,  and  extends  from  March 


THE    RED-WINGED    BUSH-LARK  259 

to  October.  The  nest  is  a  mere  pad  of  grass  mixed  with  a  little 
vegetable  fibre  in  the  form  of  a  very  shallow  saucer.  It  is  built  on 
the  ground  in  various  situations,  in  depressions  on  open  ground  or  in 
cover  at  the  base  of  bushes,  and  is  difficult  to  find. 

The  number  of  eggs  varies  from  three  to  five,  but  the  normal 
clutch  is  four.  The  egg  is  of  a  very  perfect  oval  shape,  fine  in  texture 
with  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  white  tinged  with  greenish 
or  brownish,  finely  speckled  and  dotted  all  over  with  reddish,  brownish 
or  purple  ;  tlie  exact  tint  and  density  of  the  markings  is  very  variable 
but  their  distribution  is  usually  uniform. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-76  by  0-59  inches. 


THE    CRESTED    LARK 
GALERIDA  CRISTATA  (Linnaeus) 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage, 
including  a  sharp-pointed  crest,  earthy-brown,  streaked  with  blackish  ; 
wings  brown,  the  feathers  with  sandy  margins,  and  the  quills  with  a 
large  rufous  patch  on  the  inner  webs  ;  tail  brown,  the  feathers  edged 
with  sandy,  the  outer  pair  of  feathers  largely  pale  rufous  ;  a  pale 
fulvous  streak  over  the  eye  ;  lower  plumage  pale  fulvous  streaked  with 
brown  on  the  breast  and  less  distinctly  on  the  flanks. 

Iris  light  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  horn-colour. 

Field  Identification. — A  typical  sandy-brown  Lark  found  in  open 
country  in  Northern  India  and  easily  distinguished  by  the  erect  tuft  of 
pointed  feathers  on  the  head. 

Distribution. — A  widely-distributed  species  found  throughout  the 
greater  part  of  Europe  and  South-western  Russia,  in  Northern  Africa 
and  a  large  extent  of  Asia.  It  is  divided  into  over  twenty  races  which 
to  some  degree  are  correlated  with  types  of  soil.  Of  these  we  are 
concerned  with  two  only.  G.  c.  chendoola  is  the  resident  bird  of  India. 
It  is  found  throughout  the  north-west  parts  of  Continental  India,  from 
the  foot-hills  of  the  Himalayas  at  about  4000  feet  down  to  the 
Central  Provinces  and  the  boundary  of  Bengal. 

G.  c.  magnet,  the  breeding  race  of  Central  Asia,  East  Persia, 
Afghanistan  and  Baluchistan,  is  a  winter  visitor  in  considerable 
numbers  to  Sind,  and  probably  other  areas  of  the  extreme  north- 
west. It  is  recognisable  by  its  larger  size  and  more  sandy  colour. 
Two  allied  species,  smaller  and  more  rufous  in  colour,  Sykes' 
Crested*  Lark  (Galerida  deva)  and  the  Malabar  Crested  Lark  (Galerida 
malabarica)  are  residents  in  Peninsular  India.  The  former  is  widely 
distributed  from  Sambhar  and  Etawah  southwards  through  Central 
India,  the  Central  Provinces,  Bombay  Presidency  and  Hyderabad 


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POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 


to  Mysore.  The  latter  is  confined  to  the  west  coast  from  Ahmedabad 
to  Travancore  and  Mysore  state.  The  Malabar  Crested  Lark  is  the 
larger  and  darker  of  these  two  species,  with  the  breast  more  heavily 
streaked  and  the  light  parts  of  the  tail  much  deeper  rufous. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Crested  Lark  is  very  common  in  the  sand}) 
open  plains  of  North-western  India,  both  in  and  about  cultivation 
and  in  the  more  desert  areas.  It  lives  and  feeds  on  the  ground,  and 
likes,  in  particular,  the  neighbourhood  of  rough  country  tracks  %and 
roads  where  it  finds  corn  and  insects  about  the  droppings  of  passing 
animals.  The  resident  race  is  usually  found  in  twos  and  threes,  but 
the  large  Central  Asiatic  race  in 
winter  may  be  found  in  large 
flocks  of  up  to  a  hundred  in- 
dividuals. The  bird  is  far  from 
shy,  and  on  the  ground  allows  a 
very  near  approach,  walking  about 
with  its  crest  erected  and  merely 
flying  for  a  short  distance  when  it 
does  rise.  The  call-note  is  a 
rather  sweet  tee-ur.  The  song  is 
short  and  pleasant,  and  is  uttered 
both  on  the  ground,  from  the  top 
of  a  bush  or  during  a  soaring 
flight.  This  Lark  is  frequently 
seen  sitting  on  telegraph-wires. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from 
March  to  June.  The  nest  is  placed  on  the  ground  in  a  depression 
in  the  shelter  of  a  small  plant  or  by  a  stone  or  clod  of  earth.  It  is 
a  shallow,  open  cup,  composed  of  dry  grass  with  a  lining  of  wool, 
vegetable  fibres  or  fine  grass,  and  occasionally  a  few  feathers. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  three  eggs,  though  four  and  five 
are  occasionally  found.  The  egg  is  a  broad  oval,  rather  pointed 
towards  the  small  end,  with  a  fine  texture  and  slight  gloss.  The 
ground-colour  is  greenish-  or  yellowish-white,  speckled,  spotted  and 
blotched,  with  various  shades  of  brown  and  purple  ;  the  markings  are 
usually  regularly  distributed,  but  they  sometimes  tend  to  collect  in  a 
zone  at  the  broad  end. 

They  measure  about  0*87  by  0*65  inches. 


FIG.  37— Head  of  Crested  Lark 
(^J  nat.  size) 


THE    RUFOUS-TAILED    LARK  261 

THE  RUFOUS-TAILED   LARK 

AMMOMANES  PHCENICURA  (Franklin) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
dark  brown ;  wings  brown,  margined  with  sandy-brown,  much 
rufous  on  the  inner  concealed  webs  of  the  quills  ;  tail  with  its  coverts 
deep  rufous,  a  broad  black  bar  across  the  end  ;  sides  of  the  head 
mixed  rufous  and  brown  with  a  pale  rufous  streak  over  the  eye  ;  entire 
lower  plumage  rufous,  the  chin,  throat  and  breast  streaked  with  brown. 

Iris  brown ;  bill  horny-brown,  base  of  lower  mandible  fleshy ; 
legs  fleshy.  The  bill  is  thick  and  slightly  curved. 


FIG.  38 — Rufous-tailed  Lark     (J  nat.  size) 

Field  Identification. — Plains  species  ;  found  in  parties  on  open 
plains  ;  a  brown  Lark,  rufous  below,  and  easily  distinguished  from 
all  other  Larks  by  the  bright  rufous  tail  with  a  black  bar  at  the  end, 

Distribution. — This  handsome  Lark  is  found  in  North-western 
Africa,  the  Cape  Verde  Islands,  East  Persia,  West  Baluchistan,  and 
India,  being  divided  into  several  races.  Only  the  typical  race  is 
found  in  India.  Its  western  limit  is  roughly  a  line  drawn  from  the 
Rann  of  Cutch  up  to  Hissar  and  thence  to  the  Ganges.  The  northern 
boundary  is  the  Ganges  itself  to  about  Dinapur,  and  south  of  this 
the  bird  is  found  over  the  whole  of  the  Peninsula  down  to  about 
Coimbatore.  It  is  a  resident  species  but  moves  about  locally. 

The  sandy-coloured  Desert-Lark  (Ammomanes  deserti),  found  in 
other  races  as  far  as  North-western  Africa,  is  resident  in  the  low 
desert  hills  of  the  North-west.  It  is  chiefly  remarkable  for  the  habit 
of  building  a  little  wall  of  stones  round  its  nest. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Rufous-tailed  Lark  finds  its  favourite  haunts  in 
open  plains,  stubbles  and  ploughed  fields,  and  out  of  the  breeding 
season  is  usually  found  in  small  parties.  It  normally  keeps  to  the 
ground,  where  it  feeds  on  seeds  and  insects,  but  in  the  breeding 
season  it  often  perches  on  a  low  bush  and  thence  utters  its  short 
twirling  melodious  note.  It  also  perches  on  telegraph-wires. 

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a6a          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF   INDIAN    BIRDS 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  February  to  April.  The  nest  is 
placed  in  open  fields  or  plains  in  a  slight  depression  on  the  ground, 
either  natural  or  scratched  out  by  the  birds  themselves,  and  is  sheltered 
generally  by  a  clod,  or  stone  or  tuft  of  foliage. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs.  The  egg  is  a  moderately 
elongated  oval,  slightly  pointed  towards  the  smaller  end  ;  the  texture 
is  fine  and  there  is  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  creamy  or 
white  tinged  with  yellowish,  freckled  and  speckled  all  over  with 
yellowish-  or  reddish-brown  and  a  few  secondary  markings  of  pale 
inky-purple  ;  the  markings  tend  to  be  most  dense  at  the  broad  end. 

The  eggs  measure  about  0-85  by  0-62  inches. 


THE  ASHY-CROWNED  FINCH-LARK 

EREMOPTERYX  GRISEA  (Scopoli) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Male :  Upper  plumage  pale 
ashy-brown,  concealed  portions  of  the  wings  dark  brown ;  tail  dark 
brown,  central  pair  of  feathers  light  brown,  the  outermost  pair  largely 
white  ;  a  large  patch  over  the  ears,  and  the  sides  of  the  breast  whitish  ; 
remainder  of  the  sides  of  the  face  and  the  lower  plumage  dark  chocolate- 
brown. 

Female  :  Upper  plumage  and  wings  and  tail  dark  brown  tinged 
with  grey  and  rufous  ;  the  outer  pair  of  tail-feathers  largely  white  ; 
sides  of  the  face  and  a  line  over  the  eye  rufous  ;  lower  plumage  pale 
rufous. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  bluish-flesh,  darker  above  ;  legs  brownish-flesh. 

The  bill  is  very  short  and  deep,  and  curved  on  the  upper  surface. 

Field  Identification. — A  small  lark,  sandy  grey-brown  in  colour, 
with  the  lower  surface  dark  chocolate-brown  in  the  male.  Found  in 
flocks  in  open  plains  country  and  often  very  numerous.  To  be 
distinguished  from  the  allied  species,  the  Black-crowned  Finch-Lark 
(Eremopteryx  frontalis)  of  North-western  India,  which  in  the  male  has 
a  black  crown  and  white  forehead. 

Distribution. — This  Lark  is  a  purely  Indian  species,  except  that 
it  occurs  also  in  Ceylon,  being  found  from  the  foot  of  the  Himalayas 
to  Cape  Comorin  and  from  the  western  borders  of  Sind  and  the 
North-west  Frontier  Province  to  the  longitude  of  Calcutta.  The 
birds  of  the  North-west  (Sind,  Cutch,  Punjab,  Rajputana  and  the 
Western  United  Provinces),  where  the  annual  rainfall  is  less  than 
25  inches,  are  paler  in  coloration  and  have  been  separated  as  a  race, 
E.  g.  siccata.  The  Ceylon  race  (E.  g.  ceylonensis)  has  a  heavy  bill. 
Throughout  its  habitat  the  species  appears  to  be  resident. 


THE   ASHY-CROWNED    FINCH-LARK  363 

Habits,  etc. — This  quaint  little  aberrant  Lark  is  one  of  the  most 
generally  distributed  birds  of  India  :  it  is  only  found  in  open  country 
away  from  trees,  and  though  it  occurs  up  to  nearly  3000  feet  in  the 
Salt  Range  it  is,  strictly  speaking,  only  a  species  of  the  plains.  It 
prefers  waste  ground,  fallow  fields  and  semi-desert  areas,  feeding  on 
the  minute  seeds  that  litter  the  ground.  Found  in  pairs  with  a  strictly 
defined  territory  while  breeding,  it  collects,  often,  into  large  flocks 
at  other  times.  On  the  ground  their  coloration  renders  these  Larks 
very  inconspicuous,  and  aft  observer  walking  along  is  often  astonished 
at  the  number  which  rise  one  by  one  around  him  and  then  fly  away 
in  a  dense  flock  from  ground  which  was  seemingly  empty  of  life. 


FIG.  39 — Ashy-crowned  Finch-Lark  (J  nat.  size) 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  January  to  September,  and 
apparently  two  broods  are  raised.  While  breeding  the  males  are 
indefatigable  songsters,  singing  both  on  the  ground  and  in  the  air, 
in  the  latter  case  while  the  bird  is  rising  and  falling  in  a  series  of 
deep  stoops,  keeping  over  and  about  the  same  patch  of  ground ; 
reaching  its  highest  pitch  it  closes  its  wings  and  falls  steeply,  to  recover 
and  mount  again  while  still  some  height  above  the  ground.  Near  the 
end  of  its  fall,  if  the  observer  is  close  at  hand,  a  whirr  can  be  heard, 
due  to  the  pressure  of  the  air  in  the  wing-feathers.  The  song  is  a 
sweet  but  monotonous  trill,  trrreeee,  without  variation. 

The  nest  is  a  slight  pad  of  threads  and  soft  vegetable  fibres  with 
a  few  feathers  and  pieces  of  fine  grass.  It  is  invariably  placed  on 
the  ground  either  in  a  slight  depression  in  the  open  or  in  the  shelter 
of  a  clod  of  earth,  stone  or  tuft  of  grass. 


264          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  eggs,  but  three  are  sometimes  found. 
The  eggs  are  moderately  elongated  ovals,  slightly  pointed  at  one  end, 
with  a  slight  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  yellowish-,  greenish-  or 
greyish-white,  marked  fairly  thickly  and  in  a  variety  of  ways  with 
various  shades  of  yellowish-brown,  earth-brown  and  grey. 

In  size  they  average  about  0*70  by  0*50  inches. 


THE    WHITE-EYE 

ZOSTEROPS  PALPEBROSA  (Temminck) 
(Plate  xiii,  Fig.  i,  opposite  page  264) 

Description. — Length  4  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  whole  upper 
plumage  greenish  golden-yellow,  the  concealed  portions  of  the  wings 
and  tail  dark  brown ;  a  white  ring  round  the  eye,  emphasised  in 
front  and  below  by  a  black  mark  ;  chin  and  throat  bright  yellow ; 
lower  plumage  greyish-white  ;  under  tail-coverts  yellow. 

Iris  yellow-brown ;  bill  black,  bluish-grey  on  base  of  lower 
mandible  ;  legs  plumbeous. 

The  bill  is  slender,  curved  and  pointed. 

Field  Identification. — Plains  and  hills ;  purely  arboreal ;  very 
abundant.  A  small,  bright  yellow  bird  with  greyish-white  breast 
and  abdomen,  liable  to  be  mistaken  for  a  Willow- Wren,  but  easily 
distinguished  by  the  sharp  little  curved  black  beak  and  the  white 
ring  round  the  eye.  The  constant  tseer-tseer  note  is  also  distinctive. 

Distribution. — The  White-Eyes  or  Zosteropidae  are  a  large  family 
of  small  birds  spread  over  Africa,  Southern  Asia  and  Australia.  The 
present  species  has  a  wide  distribution  in  Asia  and  is  divided  into  a 
number  of  races,  of  which  we  aVe  concerned  with  four  only,  which 
differ  only  in  small  details  of  size  and  tint  of  coloration.  The  typical 
form  is  found  from  Sikkim  and  Bhutan  eastwards  to  Assam  and 
Yunnan,  and  southwards  to  Bengal  and  probably  Orissa  and  the 
Eastern  Central  Provinces.  Z.  p.  occidentis  is  found  along  the  Himalayas 
from  the  extreme  north-west  to  Nepal,  breeding  normally  up  to  8000 
feet  and  even  higher.  In  the  plains  it  is  found  as  far  west  as  Kohat, 
and  from  there  it  extends  through  the  whole  of  North-western  India 
south  to  Mysore.  In  Sind  it  is  unknown  except  for  a  small  isolated 
colony  in  the  mangrove  swamps  of  Karachi.  Z.  p.  nilgiriensis  is  the 
race  found  in  the  Nilgiri  and  Travancore  ranges,  while  Z.  p.  salimalii 
is  confined  to  the  Eastern  Ghats  as  far  north  as  the  Godavari.  In  the 
main  a  resident  species  the  White-Eye  is  also  locally  migratory. 

HdbitSy  etc. — The  White-Eye  is  a  purely  arboreal  species  which 
practically  never  descends  to  the  ground.  It  is  found  indiscriminately 


THE    WHITE-EYE  265 

in  all  types  of  country  where  there  is  sufficient  tree  growth,  though 
it,  perhaps  above  all,  prefers  gardens  and  hill  jungles  close  to  cultivation 
where  there  is  a  mixture  of  trees  and  flowering  shrubs,  and  in  conse- 
quence a  variety  of  food ;  for  it  feeds  both  on  insects,  weevils,  ants, 
and  their  eggs  and  larvae,  and  on  vegetable  matter,  such  as  small  buds, 
seeds  and  wild  fruits. 

Except  when  separated  up  into  pairs  for  breeding  the  White-Eye 
is  found  in  small  parties  and  in  flocks,  which  do  not  as  a  rule  associate 
with  other  birds  but  hunt  busily  through  the  foliage,  invariably  coming 
to  notice  through  a  rather  monotonous  querulous  chee-chee-chee  or 
tseer-tseer  note  which  is  uttered  all  the  time  ;  they  are  very  active 
and  busy  little  birds,  and  when  disturbed  fly  off  still  uttering  their 
note  to  start  operations  afresh  in  another  tree. 

In  the  breeding  season  the  males  sing  freely ;  the  song  is  short 
and  rather  pretty.  It  begins  so  low  as  to  be  almost  inaudible  and 
becomes  louder  and  louder  until  at  the  end  it  is  almost  harsh,  and 
this  is  repeated  over  and  again  without  variation. 

Most  nests  will  be  found  about  April,  but  there  appear  to  be 
at  least  two  broods,  and  the  breeding  season  extends  according  to 
locality  from  January  to  September. 

The  nest  is  a  delightful  little  cup  slung  like  a  miniature  Oriole's 
nest  between  two  twigs,  though  very  rarely  it  may  be  placed  in  an 
upright  fork.  It  is  usually  composed  of  very  fine  grass-stems,  coated 
exteriorly  with  cobwebs  and  studded  with  small  cocoons  and  pieces 
of  vegetable  down,  but  in  shape,  depth  and  materials  it  is  somewhat 
variable.  In  site,  too,  there  is  no  uniformity.  Many  nests  are  placed 
in  undergrowth  and  bushes  not  higher  than  6  feet  from  the  ground  ; 
while  as  many  are  built  in  large  trees,  mangoes  being  perhaps  the 
favourite,  at  any  height  up  to  60  feet. 

The  clutch  varies  from  two  to  four  eggs. 

In  shape  the  egg  is  a  somewhat  lengthened  oval,  a  good  deal 
pointed  toward  the  smaller  end  ;  the  texture  is  very  fine,  practically 
without  gloss.  The  colour  is  a  very  delicate  and  pure  pale  blue  or 
greenish-blue,  without  markings. 

The  average  size  is  0-62  by  0-47  inches. 


THE  YELLOW-BACKED   SUNBIRD 

/ETHOPYGA  SIPARAJA  (Raffles) 

Description. — Length  6  inches,  including  elongated  central  pair  of 
tail-feathers  i  inch.  Male :  Front  of  crown  metallic-green ;  nape 
brownish-green ;  sides  of  head  and  neck,  back  and  smaller  wing- 
coverts  dull  crimson  ;  rump  bright  yellow  ;  larger  wing-coverts  and 


266          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

quills  dark  brown,  the  feathers  edged  with  brownish-olive  ;  tail  violet- 
black,  the  central  pair  of  feathers  and  the  edges  of  the  others 
metallic-green ;  chin,  throat  and  breast  bright  crimson,  a  conspicuous 
moustachial  streak  metallic-violet ;  a  pale  yellowish-white  patch 
under  the  wing  ;  abdomen  dull  greyish-olive. 

Female  :  Upper  plumage,  including  the  sides  of  the  head  and  neck 
dull  olive-green  ;  wings  and  tail  dark  brown,  the  feathers  edged  with 
golden  olive  and  the  outer  tail-feathers  tipped  with  whitish ;  the 
whole  lower  plumage  dull  olive-yellow  ;  a  pale  yellow  patch  under *the 
wing. 

The  immature  male  resembles  the  female  but  has  the  chin  and 
throat  pinkish-red. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  blackish-brown,  lower  mandible  horny-brown ; 
legs  chocolate-brown. 


FIG.  40 — Yellow-Backed  Sunbird     (i  nat.  size) 

The  bill  is  long,  slender,  curved  and  sharply-pointed  with  minute 
serrations  along  the  cutting  edge  of  both  mandibles  towards  the  tip. 
In  the  male  the  tail  is  graduated,  the  central  pair  of  feathers  exceeding 
the  rest  by  i  inch  and  being  sharply  pointed. 

Field  Identification. — Male,  scarlet  with  a  yellow  rump  and  olive- 
grey  abdomen  and  long  pointed  tail ;  Female,  short-tailed  and  nonde- 
script olive  colour,  darker  above.  Bill  sharp,  thin  and  curved.  A  shy 
and  active  forest  bird,  found  feeding  at  flowers. 

Distribution. — The  typical  race  of  the  Yellow-backed  Sunbird  is 
found  in  Sumatra.  In  our  area  we  are  concerned  with  four  other  races. 
The  West  Himalayan  race  (£2.  s .  mussooriensis)  and  the  East  Himalayan 
race  (&.  s.  seheria)  agree  with  each  other  in  plumage  as  described  above 
but  the  western  bird  is  slightly  larger.  This  is  apparently  a  summer 
visitor  to  the  outer  ranges  up  to  7000  feet,  but  is  not  known  to  occur 
yrest  of  Dharmsala.  dE.  s.  seheria  is  found  in  the  Eastern  Himalayas  at 
similar  elevations  and  extends  also  through  the  greater  part  of  Assam, 
both  in  the  plains  and  in  the  hills  up  to  7000  feet.  It  is  also  found  in  the 
Chota  Nagpur  area.  A  third  race  (JE.  s.  miles)  with  dull  grey  under 


THE    YELLOW-BACKED    SUNBIRD  267 

parts  is  said  to  be  found  in  Nepal.  A  fourth  race  (JE.  s.  vigorsi)  is 
found  along  the  western  coast  of  India  from  the  valley  of  the  Tapti  to 
the  foot  of  the  Nilgiris.  It  is  a  rather  darker  race  than  the  others  and 
is  more  particularly  distinguished  by  having  a  patch  of  metallic-violet 
behind  the  ear  in  addition  to  the  moustachial  streak  and  by  having  the 
crimson  of  the  under  parts  finely  streaked  with  yellow.  Other  races  are 
found  in  Burma  and  eastwards. 

There  are  several  other  Sunbirds  of  the  long-tailed  genus  &thopyga 
which  are  locally  common.  The  best  known  are  the  Nepal  Yellow- 
backed  Sunbird  (IE.  nipalensis)  with  the  whole  head  and  hind  neck 
metallic  green  and  the  lower  parts  yellow  flecked  with  red,  and  the 
Black-breasted  Yellow-backed  Sunbird  (M.  saturatd),  a  very  blackish- 
looking  species  with  violet  and  blue  metallic  feathers.  Both  are 
common  in  the  Eastern  Himalayas  and  parts  of  Assam. 

Habits,  etc. — Little  seems  to  have  been  recorded  about  the  habits 
of  the  various  races  of  the  Yellow-backed  Sunbird.  It  is  very  largely 
a  bird  of  heavy  moist  forest,  more  especially  evergreen  forest,  and  it  is 
said  to  be  particularly  partial  to  ravines  for  breeding  purposes.  At 
Dharmsala  a  few  used  to  come  into  my  garden  to  visit  the  blossoms 
of  a  large  orange-bush,  covered  with  jasmine,  at  the  side  of  the  house, 
and  they  also  fed  from  the  flowers  of  a  red  gladiolus,  a  yellow  iris  and 
a  weed  with  a  small  red  flower.  The  iris  flowers  were  pierced  by  the 
bird  with  a  tiny  hole  at  the  base,  the  mouth  of  the  flower  being  dis- 
regarded. The  flight  was  swift  and  the  birds  were  very  active  and  shy. 
The  call-note  is  a  loud  and  distinct  tssip  which  is  very  like  the  noise  of 
scissor-blades  opening  and  shutting. 

The  breeding  season  in  the  Himalayas  is  from  April  to  July  but 
the  Western  Ghats  race  (vigorsi)  apparently  nests  somewhat  later,  from 
May  to  October.  The  nest  is  pear-shaped  with  the  entrance  at  one  side 
and  this  is  sometimes  shaded  by  a  little  porch. 

The  nest  is  usually  slung  from  the  roots  of  plants  and  bushes  which 
are  exposed  by  the  rain  washing  away  the  sides  of  banks,  but  odd  nests 
may  be  found  attached  to  small  bushes  and  even  bamboo  sprays.  The 
materials  vary  a  good  deal.  Some  nests  look  like  a  mass  of  fine  black 
rootlets  loosely  felted  with  grass  ;  others  appear  to  be  a  tangle  of  wind- 
blown cobwebs  which  have  caught  in  a  branch.  Oddments  of  all  kinds 
are  added  as  external  decorations.  The  interior  is  lined  with  fine 
grass  stems  and  the  bottom  of  the  cavity  is  thickly  filled  with  fine  silky 
seed-down. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  or  three  eggs.  In  shape  they  are  broad 
blunt  ovals,  fine  and  very  fragile  in  texture  with  no  gloss.  The  ground 
colour  is  white  or  creamy,  flecked,  speckled  and  even  blotched  with 
brick-red,  reddish-brown  or  brown,  the  markings  tending  to  form 
indistinct  caps  or  zones  at  the  larger  end  of  the  egg. 

The  egg  measures  about  0-6  by  0-45  inches. 


268          POPULAR   HANDBOOK   OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

THE    PURPLE    SUNBIRD 

CINNYRIS  ASIATICUS  (Latham) 
(Plate  iii,  Fig.  3,  opposite  page  44) 

Description. — Length  4  inches.  Male  in  summer  plumage  :  The 
'whole  head,  neck,  upper  plumage,  throat  and  breast  metallic-bjack 
with  greenish-purple  reflections  ;  flight-feathers  dull  brownish-black  ; 
tail  bluish-black ;  a  narrow  band  across  the  breast  coppery-brown, 
of  varying  extent  and  sometimes  absent ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage 
dull  purplish-black  ;  a  brilliant  tuft  of  crimson  and  yellow  feathers 
under  each  wing. 

Male  in  winter  plumage,  assumed  only  from  about  September  to 
December,  resembles  the  female  with  the  addition  of  a  broad  stripe 
of  dark  metallic-violet  from  the  chin  to  the  abdomen.  It  retains  the 
dark  wings. 

Female :  Upper  plumage,  wings  and  sides  of  the  head  and  neck 
greenish-brown  ;  tail  dark  brown,  the  outer  feathers  narrowly  tipped 
with  white  ;  lower  plumage  rather  bright  yellow. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

Bill  long,  curved  and  sharply  pointed,  with  minute  serrations  along 
the  cutting  edges  of  both  mandibles  towards  the  tip. 

Field  Identification. — Abundant  garden  bird  in  the  plains  ;  a  minute 
bird  with  a  long  curved  beak  ;  male  metallic-black,  female  brown  and 
yellow.  Active  and  feeds  about  flowers. 

Distribution. — This  Sunbird  has  a  wide  range  in  Southern  Asia 
from  Persia  on  the  west  to  Cochin-China  on  the  east,  and  is  divided 
into  races.  The  typical  race  is  found  in  Ceylon  and  from  about 
5000  feet  along  the  Outer  Himalayas  throughout  the  whole  of  India 
except  in  the  north-west.  There  in  Sind  and  Baluchistan  it  is  replaced 
by  the  Persian  form,  C.  a.  brevtrostris,  with  a  shorter  bill,  while  birds 
from  the  Punjab  are  mostly  intermediate  in  character  between  the 
two  races.  In  the  main  a  resident  species,  it  is  also  locally  migratory, 
being  found  in  North-western  India  only  from  March  to  September. 
In  the  ranges  of  Southern  India  it  is  found  up  to  7500  feet. 

The  very  similar  Loten's  Sunbird  (Cinnyris  lotenia)  with  a  much 
larger  beak  is  common  in  South  India  up  to  Bombay  on  the  west 
and  the  Nallamallais  on  the  east.  In  some  areas  it  replaces  the  Purple 
Sunbird ;  in  others  it  is  found  with  it. 

Habits,  etc. — From  their  small  size  and  brilliant  metallic  plumage 
and  occasional  habit  of  hovering  in  front  of  a  flower  this  and  other 
Indian  members  of  the  numerous  family  of  the  Nectariniidae  are  respons- 
ible for  the  frequently  found  belief  that  Humming-birds  occur  in  India. 
The  true  Humming-birds  are,  however,  confined  to  America  and  its 


THE   PURPLE    SUNBIRD  269 

islands,  and  they  belong  to  a  totally  different  Order  of  birds  allied  to 
the  Swifts  and  Nightjars. 

The  Sunbird  resembles  the  Humming-bird  in  being  largely 
dependent  on  flowers  for  its  food.  It  feeds  at  the  blossoms  of  the 
various  flowering  shrubs  and  trees,  taking  from  them  not  only  their 
nectar  but  also  the  various  small  insects,  caterpillars,  spiders  and  flies 
that  they  attract,  and  in  return  assists  to  pollinate  many  species.  The 
case  of  the  flower  of  Loranthus  longiflorus  may  be  quoted  as  an  instance. 
In  this  species  the  bud  remains  closed  and  therefore  unfertilised  until 
extraneous  pressure  is  exerted.  This  is  supplied  by  the  Sunbird  which 
hops  about  the  plant  gently  squeezing  the  tops  of  mature  buds  in  its 
mandibles.  The  pressure  causes  the  bud  to  open.  The  bird  thrusts 
its  bill  into  the  flower,  sucks  up  the  nectar  with  its  specially  adapted 
tongue  and  passes  on  to  a  second  bud.  In  the  process  the  anthers  of 
one  flower  deposit  their  pollen  on  the  forehead  of  the  bird,  only  to  be 
brushed  off  against  the  mature  stigma  of  the  next  flower.  The  long 
tongue  is  almost  tubular  in  structure  and  is  capable  of  extrusion  beyond 
the  beak. 

The  Sunbird  usually  perches  on  the  twigs  and  stems  of  the  plant, 
flitting  actively  from  flower  to  flower  and  indulging  in  a  variety  of 
gymnastics  to  reach  the  desired  food  ;  but  when  need  arises  it  can 
hover  with  rapidly  vibrating  wings  though  only  for  a  short  time.  By 
this  dependence  on  flowers  it  is  emancipated  from  preference  for  any 
particular  type  of  country.  In  the  dry  desert  areas  of  the  north-west 
it  flits  and  perches  about  the  low-growing  ankh  and  wild  caper  ;  in  the 
tropical  forests  of  the  south  it  feeds  high  from  the  ground  about  the 
blossoms  of  some  lofty  tree  ;  and  throughout  its  range  it  is  a  familiar 
garden  bird  attracting  notice  by  the  boldness  of  its  visits  to  the  flowers 
that  line  verandahs  or  grow  over  porches.  Its  swift  darting  flight  and 
shrill  chirping  note  also  call  attention  to  its  presence,  and  it  has  the  rare 
merit  in  India  of  being  a  good  songster.  For  the  male  perches  on  the 
topmost  twig  of  a  tree  with  a  good  many  repetitions  of  the  sharp  chirp 
and  then  breaks  into  a  loud  full  song  which  seems  surprisingly  good 
for  so  small  a  bird  and  recalls  the  notes  of  a  Canary  or  Willow- Wren. 

The  breeding  season  varies  a  good  deal  according  to  locality,  and 
in  different  parts  of  India  eggs  may  be  found  from  January  to  August ; 
most  nests  will,  however,  be  found  in  April  and  May.  There  are  at 
least  two  broods,  and  these  are  reared  in  rapid  succession,  sometimes 
even  from  the  same  nest. 

The  nest  is  a  pear-shaped  or  oval  structure  with  a  small  round 
or  oval  entrance  at  one  side,  often  sheltered  by  a  little  projecting 
cornice.  It  is  built  of  a  most  miscellaneous  assortment  of  materials, 
hair,  fine  grass,  twigs,  dead  leaves,  chips  of  bark  and  fragments  of 
decayed  wood,  seed  cases,  scraps  of  rag  or  paper,  and  especially  cater- 
pillar droppings,  all  neatly  plastered  together  with  silky  fibres  and 


270          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

cobwebs.  The  whole  structure  is  suspended  from  a  twig  by  a  short 
rope  of  these  materials,  and  a  pendant  irregular  tassel  of  the  same 
generally  hangs  from  the  bottom  of  the  nest. 

The  nest  is  generally  placed  some  3  or  4  feet  from  the  ground, 
hanging  under  a  bough  or  a  bush,  at  times  suspended  from  the  spines 
of  a  prickly  pear  bush,  but  occasionally  it  is  attached  to  a  hook  or 
pendant  piece  of  rope  in  the  ceiling  of  a  verandah.  The  interior  of 
the  nest  is  neatly  and  softly  lined  with  seed-down. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  or  three  eggs. 

The  egg  is  typically  a  moderately  broad  oval,  somewhat  pointed 
towards  the  small  end,  but  the  shape  is  rather  variable.  The  texture 
is  fine  and  fragile  with  very  little  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  dull 
whitish  with  a  tinge  of  green,  grey  or  brown,  and  the  markings  consist 
of  minute  and  ill-defined  spots  and  freckles  of  grey,  brown  and  dull 
purple  of  various  shades.  In  some  eggs  these  markings  are  regular  and 
thickly  disposed  over  the  whole  surface  ;  in  others  they  chiefly  collect 
in  a  zone  or  cap  about  the  broad  end. 

In  size  the  eggs  average  about  0-64  by  0*46  inches. 


THE  PURPLE-RUMPED   SUNBIRD 

CINNYRIS  ZEYLONICUS  (Linnaeus) 
(Plate  xiii,  Fig.  4,  opposite  page  264) 

Description. — Length  4  inches.  Male  :  Top  of  the  head  metallic- 
lilac  ;  rump  metallic-purple ;  remainder  of  upper  plumage  dull 
crimson ;  wings  brown  edged  with  rufous,  metallic-lilac  and  dull 
crimson  on  the  smaller  coverts ;  tail  black  with  pale  tips  to  the  outer 
feathers  ;  sides  of  the  head  coppery-brown  ;  chin  and  throat  metallic- 
purple  ;  a  collar  below  the  throat  maroon  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage 
bright  yellow,  white  under  the  wings. 

There  is  no  separate  winter  plumage  as  in  the  last  species. 

Female  :  Upper  plumage  ashy-brown  ;  wings  brown  margined 
with  rufous  ;  tail  black  with  pale  tips  to  the  outer  feathers ;  an  indis- 
tinct white  line  above  the  eye,  with  a  dark  line  below  it  through  the  eye  ; 
cheeks,  chin  and  throat  pale  ashy- white  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage 
yellow,  white  under  the  wings. 

Iris  dull  red  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 

The  bill  is  long,  slender,  curved  and  pointed,  with  minute  serrations 
along  the  cutting  edge  of  both  mandibles  towards  the  tip. 

Field  Identification. — Central  and  Southern  India.  A  minute  bird 
of  brilliantly  variegated,  partly  metallic,  plumage  in  the  male,  lilac  on 
the  head,  crimson  on  the  back,  purple  on  the  throat,  and  yellow  below. 
The  female  is  dull  in  colour  with  a  white  throat  contrasting  with  the 
yellow  under  parts.  Active  in  trees  about  blossoms. 


THE    PURPLE-RUMPED    SUNBIRD  271 

Distribution. — A  purely  Indian  species.  It  is  found  throughout 
India  south  of  a  line  passing  through  Khandesh,  Raipur  and  Sambalpur 
in  the  Central  Provinces,  and  Lohardaga,  Burdwan  and  Dacca  in 
Bengal ;  also  in  Ceylon.  In  the  Nilgiris  it  is  found  up  to  2500  feet. 
This  is  the  Common  Sunbird  of  Bombay,  Madras  and  Lower  Bengal. 
A  resident  species. 

The  Small  Sunbird  (Cinnyris  minima)  is  common  along  the 
Western  Ghats  from  Bombay  to  Travancore.  It  is  the  smallest 
of  the  group  in  India,  and  the  male  is  very  brilliant  with  a  green  cap, 
deep  crimson  breast  and  upper  parts,  lilac  rump  and  purple  throat. 

Habits,  etc. — This  beautiful  Sunbird  is  very  common  over  large 
areas  of  India,  preferring  if  anything  well-watered  tracts  and  extensive 
forests,  though  it  also  comes  freely  into  gardens  and  about  houses. 
It  is  found  singly  or  in  pairs,  and  is  very  active,  incessantly  flitting 
about  from  tree  to  tree  and  flower  to  flower  in  search  of  the  insects 
and  caterpillars  on  which  it  feeds,  and  is  purely  arboreal,  never  descend- 
ing to  the  ground.  The  call  is  a  feeble  shrill  sort  of  chirp,  easily 
distinguishable  from  the  louder  call  of  the  Purple  Sunbird. 

The  breeding  season  is  very  extended,  nests  having  been  found  in 
almost  every  month  of  the  year,  but  normally  the  bird  appears  to  be 
double-brooded,  nesting  about  February  and  August. 

The  nest  is  a  most  lovely  structure,  similar  to  that  of  the  Purple 
Sunbird,  a  hanging  purse  with  the  entrance  near  the  top  on  one  side 
surmounted  by  a  little  portico. 

The  body  of  the  nest  is  chiefly  composed  of  very  fine  grass  or 
vegetable  fibres,  and  it  is  thickly  studded  exteriorly  with  scraps  of 
lichens,  spiders'  webs,  fragments  of  bark,  dried  petals,  and  a  variety 
of  similar  materials.  The  egg  cavity  is  thickly  lined  with  vegetable 
down  or  feathers.  The  nest  is  suspended  from  a  fine  twig,  over 
which  the  top  of  the  nest  is  firmly  worked  with  fibres  and  down,  and 
a  tassel  of  the  same  material  as  the  outside  covering  of  the  nest  often 
hangs  below  it.  ' 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  eggs.  The  egg  is  a  moderately  broad 
oval,  rather  elongated  and  pointed,  with  a  delicate  close-grained  shell 
almost  devoid  of  gloss.  The  ground-colour  is  a  dingy  greenish-  or 
brownish-white  ;  it  is  freckled,  clouded  and  streaked  with  minute 
greyish-brown  markings,  which  tend  to  collect  in  a  zone  or  cap  about 
the  broad  end. 

In  size  the  eggs  average  0-65  by  0-47  inches. 


272  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

TICKELL'S    FLOWER- PECKER 

DICJEUM  ERYTHRORHYNCHOS  (Latham) 

Description. — Length  3  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
ashy-olive,  the  feathers  of  the  crown  with  dark  centres,  and  the 
concealed  portions  of  the  wings  brown ;  tail  dark  brown ;  lower 
plumage  buffy-white. 

Iris  brown ;  bill  pale  fleshy-livid,  darker  above ;  legs  bluish- 
plumbeous. 

Bill  curved,  sharply  pointed  and  finely  serrated  along  the 
cutting  edges. 

Field  Identification. — A  tiny  olive  bird  with  paler  under  parts, 
and  a  curved  beak,  which  rather  resembles  a  female  Sunbird.  Has 
a  sharp  note  and  is  purely  arboreal,  frequenting  parasitic  plants 
on  trees.  It  is  easily  confused  with  the  Nilgiri  Flower-Pecker  (Dicceum 
minullum),  common  along  the  Western  Ghats,  which  is  darker  with  a 
darker  bill. 

Distribution. — Confined  to  India,  Ceylon  (separated  as  D.  e.  ceylon- 
ense)  and  Southern  and  Western  Burma.  It  occurs  along  the  Himalayan 
foot-hills,  up  to  elevations  of  4000  feet,  from  Kangra  to  Assam.  South 
of  the  foot-hills  it  is  found  virtually  throughout  India  except  in  the 
dry  regions  of  the  North-west,  Le.y  North-west  Frontier  Province, 
Baluchistan,  the  Punjab,  Sind,  and  Rajputana.  It  is  a  resident  species, 
and  in  places  like  Bombay  and  Poona  very  abundant. 

Habits,  etc. — Tickell's  Flower-Pecker  is  a  bird  of  far  more  import- 
ance than  would  seem  to  be  warranted  by  its  small  size  and  inconspicu- 
ous plumage ;  for  its  distribution  appears  to  be  entirely  dependent  on 
the  presence  or  absence  of  the  harmful  parasitic  plants  of  the  genus 
Loranthus,  and  the  spreading  of  these  parasites  appears  in  turn  to  be 
largely  the  work  of  the  Flower-Pecker. 

In  Western  India,  for  example,  Loranthus  longiflorus  is  found  on 
over  a  hundred  species  of  trees  and  in  particular  it  is  a  serious  scourge 
to  the  mango.  Its  beautiful  clumps  of  flowers  will  be  noticed  up  on  the 
trees  in  every  month  in  the  year  and  a  little  observation  will  show  that 
this  Flower-Pecker,  which  is  entirely  arboreal,  seems  to  have  regular 
feeding  territories  in  which  it  flits  about  the  Loranthus  at  all  hours  of 
the  day.  The  bird  is  very  restless.  It  flies  from  tree  to  tree,  often  high 
in  the  air ;  it  flies  from  clump  to  clump  and  on  the  clumps  it  hops 
from  bunch  to  bunch  of  flowers ;  and  all  the  time  it  utters  a  loud, 
almost  incessant  squeak  chik-chik-chik,  which  is  occasionally  varied  by  a 
series  of  twittering  notes  which  might  be  called  its  song.  Each  berry 
is  tested  with  the  mandibles.  If  ripe  it  is  plucked  and  swallowed, 
broad  end  first.  After  finding  and  bolting  down  three  or  four  ripe 
berries,  one  after  another,  the  bird  retires  to  the  extremity  of  some  bare 


TICKELL'S    FLOWER-PECKER 


273 


bough  and  sits  quiet  for  a  few  minutes  with  the  feathers  partly  puffed 
out.    It  is  during  this  interval  that  the  mischief  is  done  ;  for  hardly  has 
the  bird  been  there  a  couple  of  minutes  than  you  see  him  becoming 
uneasy  and  presently  one  of  the  seeds  is  extruded,  evidently  with  some 
effort.    The  seed  is  invariably  extruded  broad-end  first  and  by  a  final 
jerky  and  dipping  motion 
of  the  posterior  part  of  the 
body,  during  which  the  bird 

often  pivots  round  from  its  / 

normal  crosswise  position 
on  the  branch  to  one  nearly 
along  it.  The  extruded 
seed  which  is  copiously 
covered  with  viscous  matter 
and  has  a  viscid  thread- 
like process  at  each  end 
promptly  adheres  to  the 
perch.  Digestion  is  ex- 
tremely rapid  and  each  seed 
appears  to  pass  out  some 
three  or  four  minutes  after 
the  berry  was  eaten.  Im- 
mediately it  has  got  rid  of 
the  unnecessary  ballast  the 
Flower-Pecker  flies  off  to 
another  clump  uttering  its 
lively  note,  and  the  process 
starts  afresh.  In  this  man- 
ner the  parasitic  seed  is 
conveyed  not  only  to  other  branches  of  the  same  tree  but  to  other 
trees  in  the  neighbourhood. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  February  to  May. 

The  nest  is  very  similar  to  that  of  the  Purple  Sunbird,  being  a 
small  pear-shaped  structure,  suspended  by  the  stalk  from  a  twig 
with  the  entrance  high  on  one  side.  It  is  placed  in  a  tree  at  heights 
of  10  to  20  feet  from  the  ground.  It  is  constructed  of  fine  vegetable 
fibres,  externally  covered  with  cobwebs,  small  chips*  of  bark,  splinters 
of  rotten  wood  and  the  excreta  of  caterpillars,  while  the  interior  is 
lined  with  the  softest,  silkiest  downs  and  fibres.  The  female  sits  looking 
out  through  the  entrance. 

One  to  three  eggs  are  laid.  These  are  rather  elongated  ovals,  pure 
white  and  glossless. 

In  size  they  average  about  0*58  by  0-41  inches. 


KG. 


FIG.  400; — TickelPs  Flower-pecker 
(£  nat.  size) 


274          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

THE  THICK-BILLED  FLOWER-PECKER 

PIPRISOMA  AGILE  (Swahison) 

Description. — Length  5  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
ashy-brown,  washed  with  olive-green  above  the  tail ;  wings  dark  brown, 
edged  with  olive-green ;  tail  dark  brown,  edged  with  olive-green, 
the  feathers  tipped  slightly  with  white,  growing  broader  on  the  outer- 
most feathers  ;  sides  of  the  head  and  neck  ashy-brown  ;  chin  and  throat 
white  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  creamy-grey  streaked  on  the  breast 
and  flanks  with  ashy-brown. 

Iris  orange-brown ;  bill  bluish-slate,  darker  above ;  legs  dull 
bluish-slate. 

The  bill  is  short  and  coarse  with  the  lower  mandible  unusually  deep 
and  swollen. 

Field  Identification. — A  tiny  dull-looking  bird,  ashy-brown  above 
and  dull  creamy-grey  below,  with  the  breast  faintly  streaked.  Has  a 
sharp  note  and  is  purely  arboreal,  frequenting  parasitic  plants  on  trees. 
May  easily  be  distinguished  from  other  Flower- Peckers  by  the  swollen- 
looking  bill. 

Distribution. — The  typical  race  is  found  throughout  India  from  the 
foot-hills  of  the  Himalayas,  which  it  ascends  locally  to  5000  feet,  down 
to  Ceylon.  Ceylon  birds  are  separated  at  P.  a.  seylonicum.  It  is  not 
found  west  of  a  line  from  Kangra  to  Sirsa  and  Baroda  or  east  of  Sikkim 
and  Midnapur.  In  Assam  and  Burma  to  Siam  it  is  replaced  by  P.  a. 
modestum  which  is  greener  above  and  has  the  lower  mandible  less 
swollen. 

Habits,  etc. — At  first  sight  there  is  not  very  much  to  distinguish  the 
habits  of  the  Thick-billed  Flower-Pecker  from  those  of  Tickets 
Flower-Pecker.  It  is  generally  distributed  and  fairly  common  in  well- 
wooded  country  and  it  has  the  same  habit  of  flying  about  singly  from 
clump  to  clump  of  the  parasitic  Loranthus  that  grows  on  the  branches 
of  trees  ;  its  feeding  circuits  are  also  well  defined.  Its  voice  and  notes 
are  similar  to  those  of  the  other  species  though  they  are  perhaps 
distinguishable  as  being  somewhat  shriller  and  more  metallic.  It 
twists  its  little  tail  from  side  to  side  as  it  feeds  amongst  the  clumps. 
There  is,  however,  a  difference  in  the  feeding  habits  of  the  two  species 
and  this  is  evidently  correlated  with  the  different  types  of  beak.  As  has 
been  related  above,  TickelPs  Flower-Pecker  swallows  the  ripe  fruit  of 
the  Loranthus  whole  and  voids  the  viscous  seeds  on  to  the  bough  where 
it  sits  for  digestion.  The  Thick-billed  Flower-Pecker,  on  the  other 
hand,  does  not  swallow  the  fruit  entire.  It  plucks  it  off  the  clump  and 
with  its  finch-like  beak  separates  the  fleshy  epicarp  from  the  sticky  seed, 
swallowing  the  former  and  getting  rid  of  the  latter  by  scraping  it  off  on 
a  neighbouring  twig  with  a  sweeping  side-to-side  motion  of  the  head. 


THE    THICK-BILLED    FLOWER-PECKER  375 

In  this  way  three  or  four  berries  are  eaten  before  the  bird  flies  off  again 
on  its  endless  round.  It  will  be  noted  that  in  this  way  the  deposition 
of  the  seeds  is  confined  to  the  neighbourhood  of  the  parent  clump  and 
they  are  not  dispersed  so  widely  as  by  TickelFs  species. 

In  addition  to  Loranthus  berries  this  species  feeds  on  a  variety  of 
other  fruits,  particularly  those  of  the  Lantana  scrub  and  the  figs  of 
Peepul  and  Gulair  trees.  It  also  eats  the  soft  juicy  parts  of  Mhowa 
flowers  and  small  spiders. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  February  to  June.  The  nest  is  a  most 
remarkable  structure,  a  small,  rather  full-bottomed,  purse-like  bag, 
hung  from  a  small  twig  as  nearly  horizontal  as  possible,  the  entrance 
hole  being  immediately  below  the  twig.  It  is  composed  of  a  felt-like 
fabric,  so  soft  and  pliable  that  it  may  be  rolled  and  unrolled  in  the  hand  ; 
this  is  made  from  fibres,  spiders'  webs  and  the  down  taken  from  the 
young  shoots  and  flower-buds  of  various  plants.  The  down  of  Loranthus 
is  commonly  used.  The  nest  is  hung  in  trees  at  all  heights  up  to  30  feet 
from  the  ground.  Mango-trees  are  particularly  favoured. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  or  three  eggs,  but  four  may  be  found. 
These  vary  a  good  deal  in  shape  and  colour  but  are  typically  rather 
elongated  ovals,  somewhat  coarse  in  texture  and  without  gloss.  The 
ground-colour  varies  from  rosy-white  to  a  decided  pink  and  it  is 
speckled,  spotted  and  even  blotched  with  markings  that  vary  from 
brownish-pink  to  claret  colour.  They  are  most  numerous  towards  the 
broad  end,  often  forming  a  zone  or  cap. 

In  size  the  egg  measures  about  0-65  by  0-45  inches. 


THE    INDIAN    PITTA 
PITTA  BRACHYURA  (Linnaeus) 

(Plate  xvi,  Fig.  4,  opposite  page  330) 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Top  of  head  pale 
fulvous,  with  a  broad  black  band  down  the  centre,  which  is  joined 
by  a  very  broad  black  band  from  below  the  eye  ;  a  narrow  white  line 
over  the  eye  ;  back  and  shoulders  green  ;  lower  rump  shining  pale 
blue  ;  tail  black,  tipped  with  dull  blue  ;  wing  black  with  a  conspicuous 
white  patch  in  the  flight-feathers,  and  with  the  coverts  green  and 
blue  ;  chin  and  throat  white  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  fulvous,  a 
patch  of  bright  scarlet  under  the  tail. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  pale  purplish-flesh. 

Field  Identification. — A  coarsely-built  bird  with  a  short  tail  and 
strong  legs,  adapted  for  life  in  heavy  jungle ;  plumage  variegated 
with  blue,  green,  black,  white,  fulvous  and  crimson,  but  not  conspicu- 
ously bright  in  the  shade  though  the  lines  on  the  head  are  distinct. 
Shape  and  upright  carriage  are  distinctive. 


276  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

Distribution. — This  Pitta  is  found  throughout  almost  the  whole 
of  India  from  Dharamsala  in  the  Himalayan  foot-hills  to  Sikkim,  and 
Eastern  Rajputana  in  the  plains  to  Calcutta.  Southwards  it  extends 
down  to  Ceylon.  It  breeds  in  the  Himalayan  foot-hills  and  in  Central 
and  Western  India  and  in  the  former  area  is  a  summer  visitor  only, 
wintering  in  Southern  India  and  Ceylon.  Exhausted  birds  on  passage 
sometimes  take  refuge  in  outhouses  and  other  unexpected  places. 

These  lovely  birds  invade  the  sal  forests  of  the  submontane  tracts 
of  the  United  Provinces  about  the  middle  of  May.  The  forests  soon 
ring  with  their  loud  four-noted  musical  calls  (they  have  no  song). 
They  start  breeding  at  once  and  continue  throughout  the  rains  after 
which  in  September  they  begin  to  migrate  south.  As  these  forests 
are  very  malarious  in  the  rains  they  are  scarcely  ever  visited  at  the 
breeding  season  of  the  Pittas  so  that  few  Europeans,  or  even  Indians, 
have  seen  these  beautiful  birds  in  their  forest  home. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Indian  Pitta  belongs  to  a  family  of  birds  which 
has  no  equivalent  in  Europe.  All  its  members  are  compact,  stoutly- 
built  birds  with  a  short  stumpy  tail,  broad  rounded  wings  and  long 
stout  legs,  and,  as  this  structure  suggests,  they  are  essentially  ground- 
living  birds,  hopping  and  running  with  great  facility  and  spending 
only  a  small  portion  of  their  time  either  on  the  wing  or  in  trees. 
All  are  of  great  beauty,  and  the  distribution  of  the  various  members 
of  the  family  is  very  sporadic  2nd  curious.  Most  of  them  occur  to 
the  east  of  our  area  but  the  Blue-naped  Pitta  (Pitta  nipalensis),  a 
large  brown  species  with  a  blue  hind-neck,  is  common  in  the  lower 
ranges  of  the  Eastern  Himalayas  and  in  Assam. 

The  nearly  allied  Long-tailed  Broadbill  (Psarisomus  dalhousia)  is 
found  along  the  lower  Himalayas  from  Mussoorie  eastwards.  It  is  a 
gaudy-looking  bird,  green  with  blue  in  the  wings  and  tail,  a  black  head 
and  a  yellow  throat  and  is  remarkable  for  the  flat  broad  bill  and  the  tail 
of  narrow  graduated  feathers. 

The  Indian  Pitta,  by  preference,  lives  in  deciduous  forest  or  scrub- 
jungle,  but  it  may  also  be  found  in  gardens  and  comparatively  open 
country,  especially  if  there  are  small  ravines  overgrown  with  bushes 
and  trees  to  afford  it  the  cover  that  it  requires.  It  is  not  shy  and 
may  easily  be  approached.  It  has  a  sweet  call  wheel  pe-u  or  pea-to-yew, 
a  loud,  clear  and  far-reaching  note  which  is  uttered  again  and  again. 
When  calling,  the  head  and  shoulders  are  thrown  right  back,  the  chest 
out  and  the  bill  points  upwards  after  the  manner  of  a  cock  crowing. 
The  food  consists  largely  of  beetles,  ants  and  other  insects. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  June  to  August. 

The  nest  is  a  huge  globular  structure  with  a  circular  entrance  at 
one  side.  It  is  composed  of  dry  leaves  and  grasses  wound  round  with 
strips  of  fibre  or  held  together  with  twigs  and  roots,  and  is  lined  with 
green  leaves  or  fine  twigs  and  roots.  Some  nests  are  found  on  the  ground 


THE    INDIAN    PITTA  277 

or  near  it  in  low  branches,  but  the  majority  are  built  in  the  forks  of 
trees  at  heights  from  10  to  30  feet  from  the  ground. 

The  clutch  consists  of  four  or  five  eggs.  In  shape  they  are  broad 
and  regular  ovals,  so  broad  as  to  be  almost  spherical.  The  texture  is 
very  fine  and  hard  with  a  high  gloss. 

The  ground-colour  is  china-white,  and  the  markings  consist  of 
spots,  speckles  and  sometimes  hair-lines  of  deep  maroon,  dark  purple 
and  brownish-purple,  with  secondary  markings  of  pale  inky-purple. 
These  rich  colours,  together  with  the  spherical  shape  and  high  polish, 
give  the  eggs  of  this  species  a  very  distinctive  appearance. 

In  size  the  eggs  measure  about  i-oo  by  0-86  inches. 

The  word  Pitta  is  due  to  the  latinisation  of  a  Telugu  word,  meaning 
"  small  bird." 


THE  SCALY-BELLIED   GREEN  WOODPECKER 

PlCUS   SQUAMATUS    Gould 

Description. — Length  14  inches.  Male :  Top  of  the  head  and 
crest  crimson ;  upper  plumage  green,  strongly  tinged  with  yellow  at 
the  base  of  the  tail ;  wings  brownish-black  washed  with  green,  all  the 
quills  conspicuously  spotted  and  banded  with  yellowish-white  and 
white ;  tail  brownish  with  narrow  white  bars,  the  lower  surface 
washed  with  yellow ;  a  broad  yellowish-white  line  over  the  eye, 
bordered  above  and  below  with  blackish  lines  ;  another  broad  yellowish- 
white  line  below  the  eye  from  the  base  of  the  beak  ;  throat  and  breast 
pale  greyish  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  greenish-white,  with  scale- 
like  markings  of  black. 

Female  :  Has  the  crimson  of  the  head  replaced  by  black,  marked 
with  leaden  and  greenish-grey. 

Iris  dark  pinkish-red,  with  an  outer  ring  of  pale  pink  ;  bill  yellow, 
horn-coloured  about  nostrils  ;  legs  greenish-plumbeous. 

This  and  the  following  Woodpeckers  have  these  peculiarities  of 
external  structure.  The  bill  is  long  and  stout  and  modified  into  a 
cutting  weapon  with  the  end  of  the  upper  mandible  vertical  and 
chisel-shaped.  ,  The  tongue  is  excessively  long,  worm-like  and  capable 
of  great  protrusion  ;  it  is  supplied  with  viscid  mucus  from  the  large 
salivary  glands  and  the  point  is  horny  and  barbed.  The  toes  are 
arranged  in  two  pairs,  the  2nd  and  3rd  toes  pointing  forwards,  the 
4th  toe  being  directed  backwards  with  the  ist  toe  or  hallux.  The  tail 
is  graduated,  with  very  stiff-pointed  feathers. 

Field  Identification. — Himalayan  forest  form :  a  medium-sized 
greenish  bird  with  pale  under  parts  scaled  with  black  which  climbs 
up  the  trunks  of  trees  in  a  series  of  jerks,  and  moves  from  tree  to 
tree  with  noisy  undulating  flight.  Distinguish  from  a  similar  species, 

S2 


POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 


the  Black-naped  Green  Woodpecker  (Picus  canus),  which  is  found  in  the 
same  area  and  farther  eastwards  into  Assam  and  Burma  ;  this  has  the 
lower  plumage  unsealed  and  only  the  front  half  of  the  top  of  the  head 
crimson  in  the  male. 

Distribution. — This  Woodpecker  is  distributed  through  Transcaspia, 
Baluchistan,  Afghanistan,  and  the  Western  Himalayas  ;  it  is  divided 
into  two  races,  of  which  the  typical  race  is  found  in  the  Western 
Himalayas  from  the  Valley  of  Nepal  to  Chitral  and  Gilgit,  from  about 
5000  to  11,000  feet.  A  resident  species  with  little,  if  any,  altitudinal 
seasonal  movement. 

A  very  similar  but  smaller  species  the 
Little  Scaly-bellied  Green  Woodpecker 
(Picus  xanthopyg&us)  is  locally  distributed 
throughout  India,  but  not  west  of  a  line 
from  Ambala  to  Mount  Aboo. 

Habits,  etc. — This  fine  Woodpecker  is 
a  common  resident  in  the  Western  Hima- 
layas and  is  found  in  all  types  of  forest, 
also  occasionally  wandering  out  into  trees 
in  the  open  cultivated  country.  It  is  not 
very  shy,  and  is  easily  observed  as  it 
works  its  way  up  the  trunk  of  a  tree,  now 
stopping  to  dislodge  a  piece  of  bark  and 
then  hammering  lustily  with  its  chisel-like 
beak  at  a  piece  of  grub-infested  wood. 
Occasionally  it  feeds  on  the  ground, 
searching  there  for  ants  and  termites. 
When  not  feeding  it  sometimes  rests 
in  a  commanding  position  on  an  up- 
right bare  stump  of  a  bough  at  the  top 
of  a  tree,  whence  a  clear  view  can  be 
obtained.  In  such  a  situation  it  sits  for 
a  considerable  time,  moving  the  head, 
neck  and  upper  part  of  the  body  from  side  to  side  with  a  swaying 
motion,  varying  the  proceedings  by  occasionally  drumming  rapidly 
with  its  bill  on  the  wood.  The  ordinary  spring  call  is  a  loud,  clear, 
wild-sounding  melodious  klee-gu  or  pea-cock,  or  simply  the  syllable 
peer,  which  echoes  through  a  nullah  and  is  audible  a  long  way  off. 
While  hunting  for  food  a  constant  tjupk-tjupk-tjupk-tjupk  note  is  kept 
up,  and  this  repeated  loudly  is  also  the  alarm  cry.  The  flight  is 
strong,  fast  and  undulating,  the  hard  coarse  wing-feathers  making 
a  distinct  noise. 

The  breeding  season  extends  from  March  to  May,  but  most  eggs 
will  be  found  in  April.  The  nest  hole  is  excavated  in  the  trunk  or 
bough  of  a  tree  and  consists  of  a  passage  running  down  from  20 


FIG.  41 — Scaly-bellied  Green 
Woodpecker     (J  nat.  size) 


THE    SCALY-BELLIED    GREEN    WOODPECKER        279 

to  30  inches  into  the  nest  chamber  which  is  often  a  natural  decayed 
hollow  inside  the  wood.  In  this  the  eggs,  five  or  six  in  number,  are 
laid  on  chips  and  debris. 

The  egg  is  a  rather  elongated  oval,  somewhat  compressed  towards 
the  smaller  end.  The  texture  is  very  fine  and  delicate,  with  a  brilliant 
gloss  ;  the  colour  is  pure  china-white. 

The  eggs  measure  about  1-28  by  0-93  inches. 


THE  BROWN-FRONTED  PIED  WOODPECKER 

DRYOBATES  AURICEPS  (Vigors) 

(Plate  xvi,  Fig.  3,  opposite  page  330) 

Description. — Length  8  inches.  Male :  Forehead  and  crown 
umber-brown  ;  crest  golden-yellow  in  front,  crimson  behind  ;  sides 
of  the  head  and  neck  and  the  chin  white  finely  mixed  with  black  ; 
ear-coverts  very  pale  brown  ;  upper  parts  black,  broadly  barred  with 
white  across  the  upper  back  and  shoulders  ;  wings  black,  conspicuously 
spotted  with  white ;  tail  black,  the  outer  feathers  barred  with  buffy- 
white  ;  lower  parts  fulvescent-white,  tinged  with  yellow  in  the  centre 
of  the  abdomen,  streaked  with  black,  and  bordered  on  the  sides  of  the 
cheeks  by  a  brown  band  which  becomes  black  and  breaks  up  into 
spots  on  the  sides  of  the  neck  ;  a  patch  of  pale  crimson  under  the  base 
of  the  tail. 

The  female  lacks  the  gold  and  crimson  on  the  crest  which  is  merely 
yellower  than  the  forehead  and  crown. 

Iris  crimson  ;  eye-patch  plumbeous  ;  bill  horny-plumbeous  ;  legs 
dull  plumbeous-green. 

Field  Identification. — Common  West  Himalayan  form.  A  dull- 
coloured  Woodpecker,  black  barred  with  white  above,  whitish  with 
dark  streaks  below,  a  reddish  patch  under  the  tail  and  a  yellow  and 
brown  top  to  the  head,  crested  in  the  male  with  crimson.  Quiet  and 
familiar  in  its  habits. 

The  complete  red  crown  of  the  male  and  the  black  crown  of  the 
female  easily  distinguish  the  very  similar  Fulvous-breasted  Pied 
Woodpecker  (Dryobates  macei)  which  is  common  at  low  elevations 
throughout  the  whole  length  of  the  Himalayas  from  about  Murree 
eastwards.  It  is  also  found  in  Lower  Bengal  and  towards  Vizagapatam. 

Another  common  species,  confined  to  the  Western  Himalayas 
and  particularly  noticeable  in  Kashmir,  is  the  Himalayan  Pied  Wood- 
pecker (Dryobates  himalayensis).  This  is  black  and  white  with  the 
crown  crimson  in  the  male,  but  the  back  is  black  with  a  white  patch 
on  each  shoulder,  not  barred. 


280          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

In  appearance  the  Sind  Pied  Woodpecker  (Dryobates  scindianus)  of 
the  more  barren  areas  of  North-west  India  is  very  similar. 

Distribution. — Found  throughout  the  Western  Himalayas  from 
Chitral  and  Hazara  to  Nepal  at  elevations  between  2000  and  7500 
feet  and  in  smaller  numbers  up  to  9000  feet.  Here  it  is  a  resident 
species,  but  it  is  also  found  in  Afghanistan,  and  from  there  wanders 
in  winter  into  the  Samana  and  Kohat. 

Habits,  etc. — This  is  the  ordinary  common  Woodpecker  of  the 
hill  stations  of  the  Western  Himalayas  from  Murree  to  Mussoorie. 
It  is  found  chiefly  in  the  forests  of  oak  and  cheel  pine,  but  wanders 
into  cultivation  and  gardens,  and  is  a  familiar  species,  very  indifferent 
to  the  near  neighbourhood  of  man.  I  have  known  a  pair  roost  nightly 
on  the  top  of  the  pillars  supporting  a  verandah  roof  of  a  forest  rest- 
house,  and  one  winter  a  single  bird  slept  regularly  in  a  nest-box  affixed 
to  a  tree  near  my  house. 

The  call-note  is  a  rather  loud  plaintive  peek,  repeated  at  regular 
and  monotonous  intervals.  It  is  traced  to  its  source  with  difficulty, 
as  the  sound  at  times  can  be  very  ventriloquial,  and  then  at  last  the 
bird  will  be  found  sitting  at  the  extremity  of  some  dead  bough  at  the 
top  of  an  oak,  continually  jerking  its  body  and  twisting  its  head  and 
neck  from  side  to  side  as  it  surveys  the  world  below,  glancing  here, 
there  and  everywhere  on  the  alert  for  possible  danger.  When  the 
bird  is  down  on  a  tree  trunk  busy  feeding  the  sound  is  easier  to  locate, 
and  as  this  Woodpecker  is  far  from  shy  and  very  common  it  is  easy  to 
observe  and  procure  if  required. 

The  breeding  season  is  in  April  and  May.  The  nest  hole  is  the 
usual  cleanly  excavated  tunnel  and  nest  chamber  in  the  trunk  or 
large  bough  of  a  tree,  and  no  nest  is  made,  the  eggs  being  laid  on 
chips  and  debris  at  the  bottom  of  the  hole  ;  very  occasionally  a  natural 
hollow  in  a  tree  is  used.  The  site  of  the  nest  may  be  at  any  height  from 
5  to  40  feet  from  the  ground. 

The  clutch  varies  from  three  to  five  eggs. 

The  egg  is  a  rather  lengthened  and  pointed  oval,  fine  and  glossy 
in  texture,  and  pure  unmarked  white  in  colour. 

In  size  it  averages  about  0-92  by  0*68  inches. 


THE  MAHRATTA  WOODPECKER 
DRYOBATES  MAHRATTENSIS  (Latham) 

Description. — Length  7  inches.  Male :  Forehead  and  crown 
brownish-yellow,  a  small  crest  scarlet ;  back  of  neck  smoky-brown ; 
back  and  shoulders  brownish-black  and  white  irregularly  mixed ; 
wings  blackish-brown  heavily  spotted  with  white ;  tail  blackish- 
brown,  spotted  with  white,  which  from  below  appears  fulvescent ; 


THE    MAHRATTA    WOODPECKER 


281 


chin  and  throat  and  the  front  and  sides  of  the  neck  whitish,  with  a  brown 
stripe  on  the  sides  of  the  neck  which  breaks  up  into  longitudinal 
streaks  on  the  sides  of  the  breast ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage 
streaked  with  brown,  a  bright  scarlet  patch  in  the  middle  of  the  lower 
abdomen. 

The  female  lacks  the  scarlet  on  the  crest. 


Fie.  42     Mahratta  Woodpecker     (i  nat.  size) 


legs 


Iris  deep  red  ;  eye-patch  plumbeous  ;   bill  clear  plumbeous  ; 
bright  plumbeous. 

Field  Identification. — Abundant  plains  species.  A  small  dingy 
Woodpecker,  spotted  sooty-brown  and  white  on  the  upper  parts  with 
a  brownish-yellow  top  to  the  head,  and  in  the  male  a  scarlet  crest. 

Distribution. — This  Woodpecker  is  found  in  India,  Northern 
Ceylon,  Upper  Burma,  and  Cochin-China.  In  India  it  is  found 
from  the  foot  of  the  Himalayas,  which  it  ascends  to  about  2500  feet, 
or  more,  down  to  the  extreme  south.  In  the  north-west  it  is  found 


aSa  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

at  Peshawar  and  Rawal  Pindi,  but  it  is  scarce  to  the  west  of  the  Indus 
and  in  Sind  and  Rajputana,  nor  is  it  found  in  South-eastern  Bengal. 
It  is  a  strictly  resident  species.  The  typical  race  belongs  to  Southern 
India,  and  northern  birds  may  be  separated  as  L.  m.  aurocristatus, 
but  the  line  of  demarcation  is  not  very  marked. 

The  Indian  Pygmy  Woodpecker  (Dryobates  hardwickii)  is  well 
distributed  throughout  India  south  of  the  Himalayas,  except  in  Sind 
and  the  greater  part  of  the  Punjab  and  Rajputana.  Its  dull  plumage 
and  small  size — for  it  is  only  as  big  as  a  Sparrow — readily  distinguish 
it  from  the  rest  of  the  family. 

Another  species,  the  Himalayan  Pygmy  Woodpecker  (Dryobates 
nanus)  is  found  along  the  foot-hills  of  the  Himalayas. 

Habits  y  etc. — This  little  Woodpecker,  though  common,  is  somewhat 
locally  distributed,  and  it  avoids  both  the  drier,  more  open  plains  and 
heavy  forest.  It  is  a  bird  of  cultivation  and  groves,  roadside  avenues, 
low  scrub-jungle  and  gardens,  and  in  such  localities  it  feeds  quietly  on 
the  tree-trunks  and  branches,  paying  little  or  no  attention  to  passers-by. 
Owing  to  its  small  size  it  is  rather  apt  to  get  into  trouble  with  other 
small  birds  and  squirrels,  but  it  is  a  courageous  bird  and  resists  with 
spirit  their  endeavours  to  trespass  in  its  laboriously  constructed  nest 
hole.  It  is  always  found  solitary,  except  when  paired  for  the  breeding 
season.  Like  many  other  Woodpeckers,  this  species  drums  with  its 
beak  on  a  dead  bough,  apparently  as  an  outlet  for  sexual  emotion. 

The  ordinary  call-note  is  a  rather  weak  peek,  uttered  at  short 
intervals. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  February  to  April,  but  most  eggs 
will  be  found  in  March.  The  nest  hole  is  excavated  in  a  bough  of  a 
tree,  usually  one  leaning  out  of  the  perpendicular,  and  the  entrance 
hole  is  made  on  the  underside  of  the  bough.  It  is  small,  about  i\  inches4 
in  diameter,  and  the  entrance  tunnel  is  about  15  inches  long.  No  nest 
is  made,  the  eggs  being  laid  merely  on  chips  of  wood  at  the  bottom 
of  the  irregular  chamber  to  which  the  tunnel  leads. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  eggs.  These  in  shape  are  a  rather 
lengthened  oval,  fine  and  glossy  in  texture,  and  pure  white  in  colour. 

In  size  they  average  about  0-87  by  0*68  inches. 


THE    RUFOUS    WOODPECKER 

MlCROPTERNUS   BRACHYURUS   (Vieillot) 

Description. — Length  10  inches.  Sexes  alike.  The  whole  plumage 
chestnut-brown,  duller  and  darker  on  the  lower  parts  and  with  the 
following  markings  ;  top  of  the  head  washed  with  dusky  brown,  the 
feathers  slightly  paler  at  the  edges  ;  upper  parts  from  the  mantle  and 
the  wing-  and  tail-feathers  with  black  transverse  bars  ;  a  patch  of 


THE    RUFOUS    WOODPECKER  383 

feathers  under  the  eye  tipped  with  crimson  ;  feathers  of  the  chin  and 
throat  broadly  edged  with  fulvous. 

The  plumage  is  very  variable.  The  colour  varies  from  dull  to 
bright  chestnut  or  bay  and  the  head  from  chestnut  to  dark  brown  while 
the  barring  on  the  upper  parts  may  be  fairly  general  or  virtually  absent. 

The  female  is  said  to  lack  the  patch  of  crimson  under  the  eye,  but 
there  seems  to  be  some  doubt  about  this  and  I  have  had  no  opportunity 
of  verifying  the  fact  by  dissection. 

Iris  brownish-red  ;  bill  blackish-brown,  base  of  lower  mandible 
plumbeous  ;  legs  and  feet  greyish-brown. 

The  first  toe  is  very  poorly  developed. 

Field  Identification, — A  chestnut-coloured  Woodpecker  with  a 
certain  amount  of  black  barring  on  the  back,  wings  and  tail  and  a 
squamated  throat.  Found  in  open  country  and  largely  dependent  on 
the  Tree-ants  for  its  economy. 

Distribution. — There  are  three  races  of  the  Rufous  Woodpecker  in 
our  area.  Micropternus  b.  phaioceps,  as  described  above,  is  found  along 
the  Eastern  Himalayas  from  Nepal  to  Upper  Assam,  in  Assam,  Bengal 
and  Bihar,  in  the  Chota  Nagpur  area  and  rarely  in  the  Central  Provinces 
(Balaghat  and  Chanda).  It  is  also  found  in  Burma  and  Tennasserim. 
M.  b.  humei  from  the  Western  Himalayas  (Garhwal  and  Kumaon)  is 
slightly  larger  and  paler.  M.  b.  jerdonii,  a  smaller  bird  with  the  throat 
squamation  dark  chocolate  and  white  in  colour,  is  found  along  the 
western  coast  from  the  neighbourhood  of  Bombay  to  the  South  Travan- 
core  hills,  in  the  Sheveroy  Hills  and  in  Ceylon.  All  races  are  birds  of 
low  elevations  from  sea-level  to  about  4000  feet  or  occasionally  5000  feet. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Rufous  Woodpecker  is  not  a  bird  of  heavy  forest. 
It  prefers  tea-gardens  with  light  shade  trees,  open  cultivated  country 
with  bamboo  clumps  or  fairly  open  deciduous  forest.  On  occasion  it 
enters  banana  cultivation  and  clinging  to  the  smooth  trunks  of  the 
banana  trees  bores  into  the  soft  tissues  near  the  base  of  the  leaves  and 
sucks  the  sap.  It  is  not  as  a  rule  very  numerous  and  will  generally  be 
found  singly,  feeding  at  no  great  height  from  the  ground  and  sometimes 
even  on  it.  The  call  is  a  high-pitched  ke-ke-ke-ke  somewhat  of  the 
timbre  of  the  Common  Mynah's  call  and  the  bird  is  much  addicted  to 
drumming. 

It  is,  however,  in  connection  with  the  Tree-ants  of  the  genus 
Cremastogaster  that  one  usually  thinks  of  this  Woodpecker.  In  the  first 
place  the  plumage  of  the  bird  is  always  smeared  with  some  gummy 
substance,  particularly  on  the  head  and  breast  and  on  the  tail.  It  has 
also  a  strong  peculiar  smell  and  one  presumes  that  both  of  these  features 
are  due  to  the  formic  acid  of  the  ants  and  their  larvae.  These  form  a 
large  part  of  the  bird's  food,  but  they  also  affect  the  plumage  more 
directly.  The  ants  are  particularly  ferocious  ;  they  are  instant  to 
attack  and  once  they  get  hold  of  anything  they  never  let  go.  As  the 


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POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 


Woodpecker  climbs  a  tree  it  is  always  meeting  with  the  wandering  ants 
and  the  plumage,  particularly  the  tail,  rubs  against  them.  They  seize 
the  feathers  and  are  rubbed  to  pieces  but  the  heads  remain,  sometimes 
in  scores,  adhering  to  the  feathers. 


/  '  '.  ]       r  i '  v^r^f 

'  '-       ^       *    ''^^r 

,-f  ^     ^f',,^'0^^''V-^ 


FIG.  43 — Rufous  Woodpecker     (J  nat.  size) 

The  connection  of  ant  and  woodpecker  is,  however,  still  more 
intimate,  for  the  woodpecker  is  dependent  on  the  ant  for  its  nesting- 
places. 

The  nests  of  the  tree-ants  of  the  genus  Crematogaster  must  be  well 
known  to  all  who  wander  in  Indian  jungles.  They  look  like  large 
cellular  balls  of  black  papier-mache  and  measure  anything  from 


THE    RUFOUS    WOODPECKER  285 

8  inches  to  2  feet  in  diameter  and  are  built  in  trees  and  bamboos  at  any 
height  from  the  ground  between  7  and  70  feet,  but  most  often  between 
10  and  30  feet.  They  are  usually  built  round  the  fork  of  a  sapling  and 
the  material  of  the  nest  is  exceedingly  hard. 

In  these  ant-nests  the  woodpecker  excavates  its  own  nest  hole,  not 
when  they  are  abandoned  but  whilst  they  are  in  active  use  and  tenanted 
by  their  own  makers.  The  entrance  tunnel  is  made  at  one  side  and  the 
cavity  is  some  5  or  6  inches  in  diameter.  The  ants  do  not  interfere 
with  the  sitting  bird  or  the  eggs  and  young,  and  the  woodpeckers  do 
not  apparently  interfere  with  the  owners  of  the  occupied  nest.  This 
remarkable  situation  is  emphasised  by  the  character  of  the  eggs. 

They  are  slightly  elongated  ovals,  fine  in  texture  and  very  strong 
and  hard,  and  of  course  pure  white.  Their  peculiarity  is  that  the 
surface  is  mat  instead  of  highly  polished  like  most  woodpeckers'  eggs, 
and  the  shell  is  so  translucent  that  the  yolk  does  not  give  a  pink  tinge 
to  the  whole  egg  but  shows  through  as  a  yellow  ball. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  three  eggs.  The  breeding  season  of 
all  Indian  races  is  from  February  to  June. 

The  egg  measures  about  i-oo  by  0-75  inches. 


THE  GOLDEN-BACKED  WOODPECKER 

BRACHYPTERNUS  BENGHALENSIS  (Linnaeus) 
(Plate  xvii,  Fig.  4,  opposite  page  352) 

Description. — Length  1 1  inches.  Male  :  Top  of  the  head  and  a 
crest  bright  crimson,  the  feathers  partly  marked  with  black  or  white  ; 
sides  of  the  head  and  neck  white,  streaked  with  black  along  a  narrow 
line  at  the  edge  of  the  crimson  and  in  a  broader  band  through  the 
eye  from  the  nostril  to  the  nape  ;  hind  neck,  lower  back  and  tail  black  ; 
upper  back  and  shoulders  rich  golden-yellow,  sometimes  tinged  with 
orange-red  ;  wing-coverts  black  at  the  shoulder,  gradually  changing 
to  golden  olive-yellow,  the  smaller  feathers  spotted  with  fulvescent 
white ;  flight-feathers  brownish-black  boldly  spotted  with  white,  and 
all  but  the  outer  feathers  with  the  outer  webs  washed  with  golden 
olive-yellow ;  chin,  throat  and  fore-neck  black  with  numerous  short 
white  stripes,  this  pattern  gradually  merging  into  that  of  the  breast 
where  the  feathers  are  buffy-white  with  broad  black  borders ;  these 
black  borders  become  cross  bands  on  the  flanks  and  below  the  tail  and 
gradually  die  away  on  the  lower  abdomen  which  is  practically  white. 

Female  :  Differs  from  the  male  in  having  the  front  half  of  the  crown 
black,  each  feather  being  tipped  with  white. 

Iris  red-brown,  eyelids  greenish-plumbeous  ;  bill  slaty-plumbeous  ; 
legs  dark  greenish-plumbeous,  claws  dusky. 


a86          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

Field  Identification. — Common  plains  bird.  Found  climbing  up 
the  bark  of  trees  or  flying  from  tree  to  tree  with  heavy  undulating 
flight ;  black  and  white  plumage  with  vivid  crimson  crest  and  brilliant 
golden  back  immediately  catch  the  eye,  while  the  loud  call  is  a  well- 
known  sound. 

Distribution. — Found  almost  throughout  India  and  Ceylon  as  a 
resident  species  divided  into  races.  A  pale  and  much  spotted  form, 
B.  b.  dilutus,  is  found  in  Sind,  Baluchistan  and  the  neighbouring 
portions  of  the  Punjab,  grading  on  the  edges  of  its  range  into*  the 
typical  race  which  extends  throughout  Northern  India  from  the 
foot-hills  of  the  Himalayas  to  Eastern  Bengal  and  Assam.  It  is  found 
in  the  Central  Provinces,  but  in  Hyderabad  State  grades  into  B.  b. 
puncticollis,  with  much  more  black  on  the  throat ;  this  is  found  through- 
out Southern  India  with  the  exception  of  the  rain  area  from  Cannanore 
to  Cape  Comorin  where  the  richly-coloured  B.  b.  tehmince  is  found. 
B.  b.  intermedius  of  Ceylon  is  smaller  and  paler. 

This  Woodpecker  must  be  distinguished  from  the  larger  Tickell's 
Golden-backed  Woodpecker  (Chrysocolaptes  guttacristatus)  and  the  two 
smaller  Golden-backed  Three-toed  Woodpeckers  (Dinopium  javanense 
and  D.  shorei).  All  four  are  very  similar  in  appearance  but  the  Golden- 
backed  Woodpecker  may  be  separated  by  the  black  rump  (as  opposed 
to  red),  by  the  presence  of  white  spots  on  the  shoulder  and  by  having 
the  chin  and  throat  spotted  black  and  white  (as  opposed  to  white  with 
certain  defined  black  lines).  Also  the  female  has  a  red  crest,  absent 
in  the  others.  TickelPs  Woodpecker  is  found  along  the  base  of  the 
Himalayas  as  far  west  as  the  Jumna,  the  west  coast  from  Khandesh 
southwards  and  locally  from  Chanda  to  Calcutta.  D.  javanense  is 
found  along  the  west  coast  from  Goa  southwards.  D.  shorei  has  the 
same  distribution  in  the  Himalayas  as  TickelPs  Woodpecker.  Both4 
species  lack  the  small  first  toe. 

The  well-known  Wryneck  (Jynx  torquilla)  breeds  in  Kashmir  and 
is  a  winter  visitor  to  most  parts  of  India.  It  is  grey  and  brown  like 
lichen-covered  bark  with  the  lower  parts  finely  barred. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Golden-backed  Woodpecker  is  one  of  the 
best-known  of  our  Indian  species,  both  from  its  brilliant  coloration 
and  from  the  fact  that  it  is  a  bolder  bird  than  most  of  its  family.  It 
avoids  forest  areas,  and  is  found,  by  preference,  in  open,  cultivated 
districts  and  gardens  where  avenues  of  ancient  trees  provide  it  with 
a  happy  hunting  ground.  In  such  places  it  lives  singly  or  in  pairs, 
climbing  busily  about  the  trunks  and  branches  of  the  trees ;  it  progresses 
in  a  series  of  jerks  and  always  rests  with  the  body  in  a  perpendicular 
position  with  the  head  upwards  ;  it  virtually  never  perches  on  a  twig 
or  branch  crossways,  and  when  it  wishes  to  descend  a  foot  or  two  to 
search  some  special  crevice  in  the  bark  it  moves  down  backward  with 
the  same  awkward  jerks  with  which  it  ascends.  The  wonderful  adapta- 


[Face p.  286 


THE    GOLDEN-BACKED    WOODPECKER  287 

tion  of  the  structure  of  a  Woodpecker  to  its  needs  is  easily  apparent. 
The  strong  claws  grasp  the  crevices  of  the  bark  and  from  their  position 
automatically  tilt  the  cone-shaped  body  backwards  on  to  the  stiff 
graduated  tail  which  presses  into  the  bark  so  that  the  bird's  own  weight 
increases  the  firmness  of  its  stance.  In  this  position  the  long  neck 
affords  a  swing  for  the  blows  of  the  pickaxe  beak  which  chip  off  the 
bark  and  rotten  wood  revealing  the  lurking  places  of  insects  and  their 
larvae.  Then  the  long-barbed  tongue,  with  its  sticky  saliva,  is  extruded, 
collecting  food  from  the  borings  and  crevices.  At  the  same  time  it  is 
curious  to  note  that  although  this  and  other  Woodpeckers  do  feed  on 
the  wood-boring  larvae  of  beetles  and  on  tree-living  termites,  the 
major  portion  of  their  food  undoubtedly  consists  of  ants  which  might 
easily  be  obtained  without  any  special  adaptation  of  structure.  These 
are  mostly  obtained  on  tree-trunks,  though  occasionally  the  bird 
descends  to  the  ground  to  procure  them. 

The  flight  is  heavy  and  undulating,  with  rapid  noisy  beats  of  the 
wings  :  and  one  bird  often  follows  another  from  tree  to  tree. 

The  call  is  a  loud  harsh  scream,  of  several  syllables,  which  is  uttered 
both  from  a  tree  and  on  the  wing. 

The  breeding  season  varies  according  to  locality,  from  February 
to  July.  The  nest  hole  is  bored  by  the  birds  themselves  in  the  branch 
or  trunk  of  a  tree,  at  any  height  from  4  to  40  feet  from  the  ground. 
Normally  the  entrance,  which  is  about  3  inches  in  diameter,  runs  in 
for  a  few  inches  horizontally  and  then  turns  downwards  into  a  large  oval 
chamber  some  6  inches  in  diameter  in  which  the  eggs  rest  on  chips  and 
debris.  But  when  tunnelling,  the  birds  often  hit  upon  a  natural  cavity 
in  the  wood  which  is  then  utilised,  however  deep  or  large  it  may  be. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  three  eggs.  The  egg  is  a  long  oval 
rather  pointed  at  the  smaller  end  ;  the  texture  is  fine  and  hard  with  a 
high  gloss,  and  the  colour  is  pure  unmarked  milk-white. 

It  measures  about  i- 10  by  0-80  inches. 


THE  GREAT  HIMALAYAN  BARBET 

MEGAL^EMA  VIRENS  (Boddaert) 
(Plate  xv,  Fig.  2,  opposite  page  308) 

Description. — Length  13  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Head  and  neck 
black  with  deep  violet-blue  edges  to  the  feathers  ;  back  and  shoulders 
brownish-olive,  the  upper  back  streaked  with  greenish-yellow ;  a 
broad  patch  above  the  base  of  the  tail  grass-green ;  wings  blackish- 
brown,  washed  with  blue-green  and  olive-brown  ;  tail  green  above, 
below  blackish,  washed  with  pale  blue,;  upper  breast  dark  olive-brown  ; 
remainder  of  lower  parts  blue  down  the  centre,  striped  yellow  and  brown 
on  the  sides  with  a  scarlet  patch  under  the  tail. 


288  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  yellow  ;  legs  greenish-horny. 

In  this  and  the  following  species  of  Barbet  the  bill  is  large  and 
somewhat  flattened  and  swollen,  with  a  wide  gape  fringed  with  hairs  ; 
the  feet  have  the  ist  and  4th  toes  directed  backwards  and  the  2nd  and 
3rd  toes  directed  forwards  as  in  the  Woodpeckers,  but  the  claws  are 
weaker,  as  the  Barbets  perch  like  ordinary  birds  and  do  not  climb  on 
perpendicular  trunks  and  boughs. 

Field  Identification. — Himalayan  form,  best  known  by  the*  call, 
a  loud  melancholy  mee-ou  which  resounds  through  a  whole  nullah. 
In  spite  of  the  gaudy  plumage  when  closely  examined,  in  the  forest 
it  appears  a  dark  dully-coloured  bird,  chiefly  conspicuous  for  the 
large  yellow  bill  and  the  red  patch  under  the  tail.  Purely  arboreal. 

Distribution. — This  handsome  Barbet  extends  from  the  Salt  Range 
throughout  the  Himalayas  into  Assam  and  Burma  and  eastwards  to 
China.  It  is  divided  into  two  races,  of  which  we  are  concerned  with 
only  one.  This  race,  M.  v.  marshallorum,  is  found  throughout  the  whole 
of  the  Himalayas  from  Hazara  on  the  west  to  Bhutan  and  Assam  on  the 
east.  It  breeds  at  elevations  from  4000  to  8000  feet,  and  in  winter 
moves  down  to  a  lower  zone,  even  extending  into  the  foot-hills  and 
the  plains  that  border  thereon. 

Habits,  etc. — During  the  breeding  season  this  Barbet  is  an  inhabitant 
of  shady  wooded  nullahs,  preferably  those  clothed  with  deciduous 
trees,  and  though  seldom  seen,  except  when  it  ventures  into  roadside 
bushes  after  fruit,  is  well  known  about  the  hill  stations  as  a  disembodied 
voice.  The  bird  sits  high  up  in  some  shady  tree,  uttering  monotonously 
time  and  again  its  mournful  cry,  a  weird  melancholy  peeee-oh  or  mee-ou 
or  pyillo,  which  is  audible  half  a  mile  away  as  it  resounds  through  the 
nullah,  and  being  partly  ventriloquial,  as  the  bird  turns  its  head  from 
side  to  side,  is  traced  to  its  origin  with  difficulty.  Another  characteristic 
note  is  gyok-gyok-gyok,  and  occasionally  a  harsh  karr-r  uttered  with 
reiteration.  Often  two  or  three  of  the  birds  answer  each  other  from 
different  trees,  each  appearing  as  if  it  were  trying  to  outdo  the  others 
with  the  loudness  of  its  voice. 

The  hillmen  have  a  legend  that  the  bird  is  the  reincarnation  of 
the  soul  of  a  suitor,  who  died  of  grief  at  the  unjust  termination  of 
his  lawsuit,  and  that  eternally  his  plaint  rises  to  heaven  un-nee-ow, 
un-nee-ow — injustice,  injustice. 

In  winter  these  birds  collect  into  small  parties  and  then  move 
down  into  the  lower  and  more  open  hill  jungles,  where  they  feed  on 
various  fruits  and  are  then  very  tame. 

The  flight  is  strong  and  vigorous,  with  great  undulations  like  the 
flight  of  a  Woodpecker,  the  beat  of  the  wings  producing  a  similar  noise. 

This  bird  breeds  in  May  and  June  and  excavates  its  own  nest 
hole  in  the  trunks  and  boughs  of  the  larger  trees,  usually  at  a  great 
height  from  the  ground,  but  occasionally  within  easy  reach.  The 


THE    GREAT    HIMALAYAN    BARBET  289 

entrance  passage  is  usually  short  and  leads  into  a  rounded  chamber 
in  which  the  eggs  rest  on  chips  and  debris  ;  sometimes  the  passage 
leads  straight  into  a  natural  hollow,  which  saves  the  birds  the  trouble 
of  excavating  an  egg  chamber. 

The  normal  clutch  consists  of  four  eggs.  They  are  variable  in 
shape  but  are  normally  rather  lengthened  ovals,  regular  and  somewhat 
obtuse  at  both  ends.  They  are  very  fragile,  fine  in  texture,  and  pure 
white  with  little  gloss. 

They  measure  about  1-37  by  0-98  inches. 


THE    GREEN    BARBET 

THEREICERYX  ZEYLANICUS  (Gmelin) 
(Plate  xvi,  Fig.  i,  opposite  page  330) 

Description. — Length  10  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Head,  neck  and 
breast  brown,  with  narrow  pale  shaft-streaks  ;  upper  plumage  bright 
green,  in  places  with  narrow  pale  shaft-streaks  terminating  in  whitish 
spots  ;  flight-feathers  brown,  edged  paler  ;  tail  bright  green,  washed 
below  with  pale  verditer-blue. 

Iris  reddish-brown  ;  a  large  naked  space  round  the  eye  to  the 
base  of  the  beak  orange  ;  bill  dead  fleshy-pink  ;  legs  light  yellowish- 
brown. 

Field  Identification. — Common  arboreal  plains  bird,  best  known 
from  its  loud  resounding  call,  kotur-kotur-kotur.  In  appearance  a 
coarse  green  bird,  with  brownish  head  and  a  swollen  conspicuous 
beak.  Needs  to  be  distinguished  from  the  closely  allied  Lineated 
Barbet  (Thereiceryx  lineatus)  of  the  Lower  Himalayas,  in  which  the 
pale  stripes  are  much  broader  and  the  naked  eye-patch  does  not  extend 
to  the  base  of  the  beak. 

A  third  species  of  very  similar  appearance,  but  smaller,  the  Small 
Green  Barbet  (Thereiceryx  viridis)  is  extremely  common  in  the 
Shevaroys  and  along  the  west  coast  from  Khandala  to  Cape  Comorin. 

Distribution. — This  Barbet  is  confined  to  India  and  Ceylon  ;  it 
is  divided  into  three  races.  The  typical  form,  small  and  dark,  is 
found  in  Travancore  •  and  Ceylon.  T.  z.  caniceps,  the  largest  and 
palest  race,  is  found  in  Northern  India.  Its  distribution  is  rather 
irregular ;  it  is  found  in  the  North-west  Provinces,  and  along  the 
foot  of  the  Himalayas  up  to  about  2500  feet  as  far  west  as  Kangra 
and  Gurdaspur,  in  Eastern  Guzerat,  the  Central  Provinces  and 
South-western  Bengal,  the  forest  tracts  between  the  Ganges  and 
Godavari,  and  in  portions  of  the  Madras  Presidency ;  also  about 
Mount  Aboo.  An  intermediate  race,  T.  &  inornatus,  is  found  along 
the  west  coast  from  Bombay  to  Coorg.  It  is  a  strictly  resident  species. 

T 


290          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF   INDIAN    BIRDS 

Habits \  etc. — Like  several  other  birds  in  India,  this  Barbet  is  exceed- 
ingly well  known  by  sound  to  many  people  who  do  not  know  it  by 
sight.  It  is  purely  arboreal,  affecting  richly-wooded  and  well-watered 
localities,  especially  in  the  neighbourhood  of  hills  which  it  ascends 
to  an  altitude  of  about  3000  feet.  It  feeds  chiefly  on  the  fruit  of  wild 
fig  trees,  such  as  the  banyan  and  peepul,  and  living  high  from  the  ground 
amongst  their  heavy  foliage,  is  hard  to  see  ;  for  the  green  plumage 
blends  with  the  leaves,  and  the  curious  flesh-coloured  beak  #nd 
yellow  eye-patch  simulate  the  berries  ;  as  if  aware  of  this  protective 
coloration  it  relies  on  it  for  concealment  and  is  still  and  silent  in  the 
presence  of  danger.  The  flight  is  strong  but  rather  heavy  and 
undulating. 

The  presence  of  the  bird  is,  however,  revealed  by  the  call,  which 
is  one  of  the  familiar  sounds  of  India.  It  may  be  heard  throughout 
the  year,  though  it  is  most  persistent  from  January  to  June,  when 
the  breeding  season  urges  the  bird  to  its  greatest  efforts.  It  occasionally 
calls  at  night.  The  call  is  loud  and  monotonous  and  starts  with  a  harsh 
sort  of  laugh,  followed  by  a  disyllabic  call,  which  may  be  written 
tur-r-r-r  kutur-kotur-kotur ;  another  method  of  expressing  it  is  by  a 
repetition  several  times  of  the  word  Pakrao. 

The  eggs  are  laid  in  March  and  April.  The  nest  hole  is  a  chamber 
excavated  in  one  of  the  larger  branches  of  a  soft-wooded  tree  with  a 
short  entrance  tunnel  which  is  neatly  cut  and  rounded.  It  is  excavated 
by  the  birds  themselves,  and  they  work  very  hard  and  continuously 
until  it  is  finished.  The  hole  is  at  any  height  from  6  to  50  feet  from  the 
ground.  There  is  no  nest,  the  eggs  being  merely  laid  on  chips  at  the 
bottom  of  the  hole. 

The  clutch  consists  of  two  to  four  eggs,  which  are  laid  rather 
irregularly,  so  that  eggs  in  different  stages  of  incubation  may  be 
found  in  the  same  clutch.  The  eggs  are  somewhat  elongated  very 
regular  ovals,  dull  white,  slightly  glossy  and  unusually  fragile  for 
their  size. 

They  measure  about  1*20  by  0*87  inches. 


THE  BLUE-THROATED  BARBET 

CYANOPS  ASIATICA  (Latham) 

Description. — Length  9  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Top  of  the  head 
crimson,  broken  by  a  transverse  black  band  above  the  eyes  which 
turns  backwards  and  borders  the  red  over  the  ears ;  the  transverse 
band  has  a  yellow  border  in  front ;  remainder  of  upper  plumage 
grass-green,  the  flight-feathers  blackish-brown,  and  the  under  surface 
of  the  tail  washed  with  pale  blue ;  sides  of  the  head,  chin,  throat 


THE    BLUE-THROATED    BARBET  291 

and  fore-neck  pale  verditer-blue,  with  a  crimson  speck  on  each  side  at 
the  lower  base  of  the  beak,  and  with  a  large  crimson  spot  on  each  side  of 
the  neck  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  yellowish-green. 

Iris  brown  ;  eyelids  orange  ;  bill  greenish-yellow,  blackish  above  ; 
legs  dingy  green,  claws  blackish. 

Field  Identification. — Sub-Himalayan  species  with  a  conspicuous 
call,  kuttooruk ;  a  bright  green  bird  with  a  gaudy  mixture  of  black, 
crimson  and  blue  about  the  head.  Purely  arboreal. 

Distribution. — This  rather  gaudy  species  is  found  from  the  Hima- 
layas to  Assam,  Burma  and  Siam,  and  is  divided  into  several  races.  We 
are  merely  concerned  with  the  typical  form,  which  is  a  resident  species 
throughout  the  Lower  Himalayas  and  the  Sub-Himalayan  forests  from 
Chamba  eastwards,  extending  also  into  Lower  Bengal,  Assam  and 
Burma.  It  is  found  from  the  level  of  the  plains  up  to  about  6000  feet. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Blue-throated  Barbet  is  found  not  so  much  in 
thick  forest  as  in  the  more  open  hill  jungles,  where  villages  and 
cultivation  have  let  in  the  sun  and  caused  the  growth  of  that  rich 
and  varied  tree  flora  which  is  a  great  feature  of  the  lower  hills.  In 
such  places  wild  fruits  of  various  kinds  are  extremely  common,  and 
on  these  the  Barbet  lives,  wandering  freely  from  tree  to  tree  without 
fear  of  man,  even  nesting  in  the  middle  of  the  villages.  It  is  purely 
arboreal  and  never  descends  to  the  ground,  the  variegated  green 
plumage  rendering  it  almost  invisible  in  the  thickly  foliaged  trees. 
Invisible  it  may  be  but  inaudible  it  is  not,  especially  in  the  spring  ; 
Bussant  Bairi — the  old  woman  of  the  spring — has  a  loud  hard  voice 
which  echoes  through  the  villages  with  its  incessant  call  of  kuruwak- 
kuruwak-kuruwak  or  kuttooruk.  By  some  hill  tribes  this  bird  is  killed 
for  food. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  April  to  July. 

The  nest  hole  is  excavated  in  the  trunk  or  bough  of  a  tree  generally 
at  a  height  of  10  or  15  feet  from  the  ground,  a  small  or  medium-sized 
tree  being  usually  chosen.  The  entrance  hole  is  only  about  a  foot 
long,  and  in  the  nest  chamber  the  eggs  are  laid  merely  on  debris, 
though  occasionally  a  pad  of  fibres,  grass  and  other  materials  is  found 
beneath  the  eggs. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  eggs.  These  are  pure  white  in  colour, 
fine  and  compact  in  texture,  sometimes  with  a  slight  gloss.  The  shape 
is  a  rather  broad  or  elongated  oval,  somewhat  pointed  towards  the  small 
end. 

The  egg  measures  about  1*09  by  0-83  inches. 


29*          POPULAR   HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 


THE    COPPERSMITH 

XANTHOL^MA  IUEMACEPHALA  (P.  L.  S.  Miiller) 

(Plate  x,  Fig.  4,  opposite  page  198) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Sexes  alike.  A  broad  patch 
across  the  forehead  and  a  broad  gorget  across  the  fore-neck  bright 
glistening  crimson  ;  a  streak  above  the  eye  and  a  broader  patch  below 
it  and  the  chin  and  throat  bright  yellow  ;  a  golden-yellow  band  round 
the  lower  edge  of  the  crimson  gorget ;  a  black  band  through  the  eye 
from  the  nostril  and  another  from  the  gape  below  the  cheeks,  both 
merging  into  a  broader  black  band  which  passes  behind  the  ears 
and  over  the  top  of  the  head ;  remainder  of  the  upper  plumage 
olivaceous-green  tinged  with  greyish  on  the  back  and  sides  of  the  neck, 
and  slightly  streaked  with  yellowish  on  the  back  :  concealed  portions  of 
the  flight-feathers  blackish  ;  lower  plumage  yellowish-white,  streaked 
broadly  with  olivaceous-green  especially  on  the  flanks  ;  tail  faintly 
washed  below  with  verditer-blue. 

Iris  brown  ;  eyelids  dull  crimson  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  coral-red, 
claws  black. 

Field  Identification. — Plains  species,  purely  arboreal,  and  most 
familiar  from  its  monotonous  call ;  a  small  heavily-built  greenish 
bird  with  gaudy  yellow,  crimson  and  black  markings  about  the  head. 

Distribution. — Widely  distributed  through  the  greater  part  of 
the  Indian  Empire  and  Ceyfon,  and  farther  eastwards  to  the  Malay 
Peninsula,  Sumatra,  and  the  Philippines.  In  India  we  are  concerned 
only  with  one  race,  X.  h.  indica.  This  is  not  found  in  Baluchistan,  the 
North-west  Frontier  Province  or  the  South-western  Punjab.  With 
these  exceptions  it  is  found  throughout  India  from  the  outer  foot-hills 
of  the  Himalayas  below  3000  feet,  right  down  to  the  south.  It  is, 
however,  rare  in  Sind  and  Cutch  and  in  Southern  Malabar.  A  strictly 
resident  species. 

A  very  similar  bird,  the  Crimson-throated  Barbet  (Xantholcema 
rubricapilla),  with  the  chin  and  throat  crimson  and  the  lower  parts 
pale  green  unstreaked,  is  common  along  the  west  coast  from  above  Goa 
to  the  extreme  south.  It  is  represented  in  Ceylon  by  a  yellow-throated 
race. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Coppersmith  or  Crimson-breasted  Barbet  is 
another  of  those  Indian  birds  whose  voice  is  more  familiar  to  most 
people  than  its  form.  It  is  found  in  every  type  of  open  country  where 
large  trees  abound  and  is  purely  arboreal,  sitting  and  feeding  amongst 
the  green  leaves  with  which  its  plumage  assimilates,  and  never  descend- 
ing either  to  bushes  or  the  ground.  The  flight  is  fairly  strong  and 
straight,  'with  quick  regular  beats  of  the  short  wings,  and  the  bird  has 


THE    COPPERSMITH  293 

no  hesitation  in  flying  high  from  tree  to  tree,  often  for  a  considerable 
distance. 

The  outstanding  characteristic  of  the  bird  is  its  voice ;  the  note  is 
a  loud  but  mellow  took,  in  which  is  the  unmistakable  ring  of  metal,  like 
the  tap  of  a  small  hammer  on  metal ;  and  this  is  repeated  indefinitely 
at  regular  intervals  as  if  a  veritable  coppersmith  were  at  work ;  its 
monotony  can  be  most  exasperating  as  the  sound  never  changes  or 
varies  except  that  it  is  somewhat  ventriloquial ;  when  the  bird  turns 
its  head  from  side  to  side  the  call  appears  to  come  from  different  direc- 
tions, as  if  two  smiths  were  smiting  alternately  the  same  anvil.  As  the 
thermometer  rises  so  does  the  persistence  of  the  bird  grow,  and  then 
its  note  may  be  definitely  included  amongst  the  hot  weather  worries  of 
India.  It  usually  calls  from  near  the  top  of  a  tree,  sometimes  indeed 
clinging  to  the  side  of  an  upright  twig.  The  call  may  be  heard  through- 
out the  day,  but  not  after  dark. 

The  food  consists  almost  entirely  of  the  fruit  of  the  various  species 
of  wild  fig. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  February  to  May. 

The  eggs  are  laid  in  a  hole  in  the  bough  of  a  tree,  which  is  used  and 
lengthened  year  by  year  until  it  may  attain  the  length  of  4  or  5  feet. 
The  entrance  is  invariably  a  neat  round  hole  cut  by  the  birds  themselves, 
usually  on  the  under  surface  of  the  bough  ;  but  though  the  gallery  and 
nest  chamber  may  both  be  the  work  of  the  birds  themselves,  the  gallery 
often  cuts  into  a  natural  decayed  hollow  which  is  then  smoothed  and 
used.  When  the  passage  of  several  years  has  lengthened  the  hollow 
unduly  a  new  entrance  is  frequently  cut  nearer  to  the  egg  chamber. 
There  is  no  nest,  the  eggs  merely  lying  on  chips  and  debris.  The  nest 
hole  is  at  any  height  from  7  to  40  feet  from  the  ground. 

The  clutch  consists  of  three  or  four  eggs.  They  are  long,  narrow 
and  nearly  cylindrical  in  shape,  very  fragile  and  smooth  in  texture, 
with  little  or  no  gloss.  The  colour  is  pure  unmarked  white. 

In  size  the  egg  averages  about  0-99  by  0-69  inches. 


THE    BLUE-JAY 

CORACIAS   BENGHALENSIS 
(Plate  xvii,  Fig.  2,  opposite  page  352) 

Description. — Length  13  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Top  of  the  head 
bluish-green  ;  back  and  sides  of  the  neck  deep  vinous  ;  upper  plumage 
dull  greenish-brown,  a  patch  of  blue  above  the  base  of  the  tail ;  wings 
mixed  blues  and  greens,  the  quills  being  deep  purplish-blue  marked 
conspicuously  with  a  broad  band  of  pale  blue ;  tail  deep  blue,  with 
a  broad  subterminal  band  of  pale  blue,  interrupted  by  the  central 

T2 


294          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

pair  of  feathers  which  are  dull  greenish ;  sides  of  head  and  throat 
purplish-lilac,  streaked  with  whitish ;  breast  vinous,  also  faintly 
streaked  with  whitish  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  pale  blue. 

Iris  greyish-brown ;  naked  skin  round  the  eye  gamboge ;  bill 
blackish-brown ;  legs  brownish-yellow. 

The  three  front  toes  are  more  or  less  united  at  the  base. 

Field  Identification. — One  of  the  best-known  birds  of  India ;  a 
heavy  lumpy-looking  nondescript-coloured  bird  which,  as  it  takes 
to  flight,  reveals  glorious  Oxford-blue  wings  and  tail,  banded  with 
Cambridge-blue. 

Distribution. — The  Blue-Jay  or  Indian  Roller  is  widely  spread 
throughout  India,  Burma  and  Ceylon,  occurring  also  to  the  west  as 
far  as  Amara,  and  to  the  east  to  Siam  and  Cochin-China.  Several 
races  have  been  distinguished.  The  typical  race  extends  from  the 
Persian  Gulf  throughout  Northern  India  to  Eastern  Bengal.  In 
the  southern  half  of  the  Peninsula  and  Ceylon  it  is  replaced  by 
C.  b.  indica,  while  the  darker  and  more  mauve  Burmese  bird  is  known  as 
C.  b.  affinis.  The  Common  Roller  of  Kashmir,  however,  which  may  be 
easily  distinguished  by  having  the  lower  parts  pale  blue  throughout  and 
by  lacking  the  wing  and  tail-bars,  is  C.  garrula  semenovi,  a  race  of  the 
European  bird.  This  species  is  very  plentiful  on  migration  in  the  plains 
of  North-western  India.  It  should  be  emphasised  that  these  birds  are 
in  no  way  related  to  the  true  Jays  which  belong  to  the  Crow  family. 

The  Indian  Roller  is  a  plains  bird,  and  does  not  ascend  the  Hima- 
layas over  about  4000  feet ;  while  in  the  main  a  resident  species,  it  is 
locally  migratory. 

Very  similar  in  appearance  is  the  Broad-billed  Roller  Eurystomus 
orientalis,  not  rare  in  the  foothills  of  the  Himalayas,  from  Kumaon 
eastwards.  It  also  occurs  in  South-west  India  and  Ceylon  but  is 
far  from  common.  It  is  a  dull  blue  colour  with  a  very  distinct  pale 
blue  wing  bar  noticeable  in  flight.  , 

Habits,  etc. — Under  the  familiar  name  of  Blue-Jay  this  Roller  is 
one  of  the  best-known  of  our  Indian  birds.  It  is  a  bird  of  open  country, 
avoiding  heavy  jungle  and  preferring  cultivation.  There  is  very  little 
variation  in  its  habits  ;  except  in  the  breeding  season  it  is  found  singly, 
but  is  so  common  that  single  birds  will  be  met  all  over  the  country- 
side every  quarter  mile  or  so.  It  chooses  an  elevated  open  perch  on 
which  to  sit,  a  dead  bough  of  an  ancient  tree,  the  woodwork  over  a  well, 
a  ruined  building,  a  telegraph  post  or  wire,  or  in  default  of  something 
better,  a  thorn  bush  or  stone  heap.  On  such  a  spot  it  sits  motionless, 
the  bright  colours  concealed  or  blending  with  the  variegated  tints  of  an 
Indian  landscape  ;  but  all  the  while  the  large  dark  eyes  are  watching 
the  ground  in  every  direction ;  and  a  grasshopper  has  only  to  walk 
along  a  blade  of  grass,  or  a  cricket  or  mouse  to  emerge  from  its  burrow, 
and  the  Roller  has  launched  itself  straight  at  the  spot  to  capture  the 


THE    BLUE-JAY  295 

toothsome  morsel,  settling  on  the  ground  beside  it,  and  then  flying 
back  to  its  perch.  To  my  last  day  in  India  I  shall  never  lose  the  thrill 
that  comes  to  me  every  time  that  I  see  the  sudden  transformation,  as 
the  dark  lumpy  bird  reveals  the  banded  glory  of  its  wings  and  tail. 

Tn  early  February  the  Roller  betrays  the  secret  of  its  name ;  its 
sedateness  is  exchanged  for  the  love  flights  in  which  it  rises  and  falls 
in  the  air  with  wildly  flapping  wings  and  harsh  grating  screams, 
advertising  to  all  and  sundry  that  Spring  is  in  the  air.  The  ordinary 
flight  is  strong  and  buoyant  with  slow  but  continuous  flapping  of  the 
wings  ;  occasionally  it  pursues  insects  on  the  wing,  but  this  is  not  usual. 

This  bird  is  sacred  to  Shiva,  who  is  said  to  have  assumed  its  form. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  the  end  of  March  until  July.  The 
nest  is  invariably  built  in  a  hole,  either  in  a  tree  or  a  building.  It  is  a 
formless  pad  of  tow,  vegetable  fibres,  grass,  old  rags  and  similar 
materials,  but  it  varies  in  size  according  to  the  circumstances  of  the 
hole  adopted,  and  occasionally  the  eggs  are  merely  laid  on  debris  and 
chips  in  the  bottom  of  the  hole  without  any  real  nest  being  constructed. 

The  eggs  are  four  or  five  in  number.  They  are  very  broad  ovals, 
sometimes  almost  spherical,  highly  glossy  and  hard  in  texture,  of  an 
unmarked  pure  china-white. 

In  size  they  average  about  1-30  by  1-05  inches. 


THE  GREEN  BEE-EATER 

MEROPS  ORIENTALIS  Latham 
(Plate  x,  Fig.  i,  opposite  page  198) 

Description. — Length  9  inches,  including  2  inches  for  the  elongated 
central  pair  of  tail-feathers.  Sexes  alike.  Entire  plumage  bright  green, 
in  places  tinged  with  blue,  markedly  so  on  the  chin  and  throat ;  the 
crown  to  the  upper  back  tinged  with  golden-ferruginous  ;  flight-feathers 
rufous,  washed  exteriorly  with  green  and  finely  tipped  with  blackish  ; 
a  mark  in  front  and  below  the  eye  and  a  fine  gorget-line  black. 

Iris  blood-red ;  bill  black  ;  legs  dark  plumbeous. 

The  bill  is  long,  slender  and  curved ;  the  feet  are  feeble  with  the 
three  anterior  toes  united  at  the  base,  and  the  two  central  tail-feathers 
are  long  and  pointed. 

Field  Identification. — Abundant  plains  species,  easily  identified 
by  its  long  slender  shape,  with  long  beak  and  elongated  central  tail- 
feathers,  and  by  the  green  plumage,  with  a  coppery  sheen  from  the 
wings  in  flight.  Smaller  than  all  other  Indian  Bee-Eaters.  Hawks 
from  trees  and  telegraph-wires. 

Distribution. — This  little  Bee-Eater  has  an  extensive  range  from 
Egypt  through  India,  Ceylon  and  Burma  to  Siam  and  Cochin-China. 


296          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

In  this  wide  area  it  has,  of  course,  been  divided  into  several  races, 
of  which  we  are  concerned  with  two.  The  typical  race  is  found 
throughout  India  and  Ceylon,  with  the  exception  of  Sind,  the  Punjab, 
North-west  Frontier  Province  and  Baluchistan  where  it  is  replaced  by 
M.  o.  beludschicus,  a  rather  paler  bird  with  a  bluer  throat.  While 
ordinarily  a  plains  bird,  this  Bee-Eater  ascends  the  Outer  Himalayas 
and  other  hill  ranges  occasionally  to  a  height  of  5000  to  6000  feet  and 
even  higher.  It  is  locally  migratory,  though  the  movements  still 
require  to  be  worked  out. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Green  Bee-Eater  avoids  heavy  forest  and  the 
wetter  tracts  of  India,  and  is  most  abundant  wherever  the  country  is 
open,  frequenting  both  cultivation  and  desert  areas.  It  is  certainly 
one  of  the  commonest  birds  of  India,  and  attracts  attention  from  its 
beautiful  coloration  and  from  its  favourite  perch  being  on  the  telegraph- 
wires.  It  also  settles  on  trees,  low  bushes  and  walls,  but  only  visits  the 
ground  for  nesting  purposes,  the  small  and  weak  feet  rendering  the  bird 
incapable  of  progression  by  walking  or  hopping  ;  like  other  Bee-Eaters 
it  spends  its  life  hawking  insects  from  a  perch  to  which  it  returns  after 
every  flight,  usually  carrying  a  captured  insect  of  some  size  which  is 
battered  to  death  and  eaten  there.  The  flight  is  free  and  graceful,  and 
when  the  bird  is  travelling  it  is  somewhat  undulating.  The  note  is  a 
pleasant,  cheerful  but  rather  monotonous  trill,  tree-tree-tree-tree,  which 
is  usually  uttered  on  the  wing. 

These  birds  are  fond  of  living  in  small  parties  and  they  are  very 
social  at  the  roost,  two  or  three  hundred  often  collecting  to  sleep  in  a 
clump  of  trees. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  the  middle  of  March  until  the 
beginning  of  June. 

The  eggs  are  laid  in  a  circular  chamber  reached  by  a  tunnel  excavated 
in  the  ground,  usually  in  the  face  of  a  perpendicular  bank  or  cutting  ; 
the  entrance  tunnel  may  be  anything  up  to  5  feet  in  length,  and  the 
opening  is  circular  and  very  neatly  cut,  all  the  work  being  done  by  the 
birds  themselves.  No  nest  is  built,  the  eggs  being  merely  laid  on  the 
bare  floor  of  the  cavity. 

The  clutch  varies  from  three  to  five  eggs.  They  are  nearly  spherical 
in  shape,  pure  white  in  colour  without  markings,  and  the  texture  is  hard 
and  brilliantly  glossy. 

They  average  0*75  by  0*7  inches  in  size. 


THE    BLUE-TAILED    BEE-EATER  297 

THE  BLUE-TAILED  BEE-EATER 

MEROPS  SUPERCILIOSUS  Linnaeus 
(Plate  xvi,  Fig.  2,  opposite  page  330) 

Description. — Length  12  inches,  including  elongated  central  pair  of 
tail-feathers  2  inches.  Sexes  alike.  A  broad  black  streak  from  the  beak 
through  the  eye,  bordered  narrowly  above  and  broadly  below  by  blue  ; 
upper  plumage  green  tinged  with  rufous  passing  on  the  rump  into 
verditer-blue  ;  the  wings  more  rufous-green  than  the  back  and  tipped 
with  blackish  ;  tail  verditer-blue,  dark  brown  below,  the  long  central 
pair  of  feathers  tipped  with  black  ;  throat  chestnut  passing  into  green 
on  the  breast,  and  this  in  turn  into  blue  under  the  tail. 

Iris  crimson  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  dusky-plumbeous. 

The  bill  is  long  and  curved,  the  three  exterior  toes  are  united 
about  their  bases,  and  the  central  pair  of  tail-feathers  are  elongated 
and  pointed,  projecting  2  inches  beyond  the  others. 

Field  Identification. — Common  plains  species,  partial  to  the 
neighbourhood  of  water.  Easily  identified  by  long  slender  shape, 
with  long  sharp  bill  and  central  tail-feathers  ;  distinguish  from  Green 
Bee-Eater  by  large  size,  chestnut  throat  and  greenish  under  parts  and 
generally  duller  coloration. 

Distribution. — Throughout  the  greater  part  of  the  Oriental  region. 
We  are  concerned  with  only  two  races.  M.  s.  javanicus,  as  described 
above,  occurs  from  India,  Ceylon  and  Burma  to  Java.  It  is  generally 
but  locally  distributed  almost  throughout  India,  except  in  Sind.  It 
occurs  along  the  foothills  of  the  Himalayas  up  to  about  3000  feet. 
M.  s.  persicus  is  more  of  a  desert  bird  and  is  confined  in  India  to  parts  of 
the  North-west.  It  is  a  bluer,  less  bronzy-green  below ;  there  is  more 
blue  on  the  sides  of  the  head  and  the  upper  surface  of  the  tail  is  green. 

The  European  Bee-Eater  (Merops  apiaster)  breeds  very  abundantly 
in  Kashmir.  The  brilliant  yellow  throat  and  blue  under  parts  immedi- 
ately identify  it,  whilst  the  brown  and  yellow  upper  parts  are  conspicuous 
in  the  field. 

Habits,  etc. — This  fine  Bee-Eater  is  common  in  well-cultivated  and 
open  country,  provided  it  is  not  too  dry.  It  is  particularly  partial  to  the 
neighbourhood  of  water,  and  may  be  found  in  large  flights  on  the  banks 
of  rivers  and  about  j heels  and  tanks.  These  birds  perch  on  open 
elevated  situations,  such  as  tall  half-withered  trees  standing  in  water  or 
on  telegraph-wires,  and  continually  dart  into  the  air  to  take  a  passing 
insect  which  they  take  back  and  eat  on  their  perch  :  but  it  is  a  familiar 
sight,  especially  in  the  evenings,  to  see  a  flock  drifting  along  through  the 
air,  flying  fast  with  beating  wings  for  a  few  yards  and  then  soaring  with 
stiff  open  pinions,  catching  insects  as  they  go.  The  call-note  is  freely 


398          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF   INDIAN    BIRDS 

uttered  on  the  wing  and  is  a  rather  mellow  and  characteristic  sound,  a 
rolling  whistle  or  chirp  teerp.  The  food  consists  entirely  of  insects, 
chiefly  dragon-flies  and  bees. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  March  to  June.  The  birds  nest  in 
colonies,  excavating  their  nest  holes  in  the  face  of  natural  banks  or  in 
mounds  like  those  that  mark  the  site  of  old  brick-kilns.  The  eggs  are 
laid  on  the  soil  in  a  rounded  chamber  which  is  reached  by  a  tunnel  some 
4  to  7  feet  long.  This  tunnel  is  usually  not  quite  straight. 

The  clutch  normally  consists  of  four  or  five  eggs. 

The  egg  is  pure  white  with  a  very  high  gloss  and  fine  hard  texture. 
In  shape  it  is  a  spherical  oval. 

The  average  size  is  about  0-88  by  0-75  inches. 


THE   CHESTNUT-HEADED   BEE-EATER 
MEROPS  LESCHENAULTI  (Vieillot) 

Description. — Length  8-5  inches.  The  sexes  are  alike.  A  line 
under  the  eye  and  through  the  ear-coverts  black ;  head,  neck  and 
lower  back  chestnut ;  upper  tail  coverts  pale  blue  ;  wings  and  tail 
green  tinged  with  black ;  throat  very  pale  yellow  separated  from 
the  breast  by  a  dark  chestnut  band,  bordered  on  the  posterior  margin 
with  black ;  breast,  abdomen  and  under  tail  coverts  grass-green 
varying  in  shade. 

Iris  crimson  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  dusky  black. 

Field  Identification. — From  other  Bee-eaters  described  above  this 
species  is  distinguished  by  the  square  tail,  the  two  middle  tail  feathers 
not  prolonged,  and  the  chestnut  back. 

Distribution. — The  Himalayan  Terai  from  the  Kumaon  foothills 
eastward  through  Assam  and  Burma  to  the  Malay  Peninsula  and 
the  Andaman  Islands.  The  species  is  very  rare  on  the  east  side  of 
the  Peninsula,  but  on  the  Malabar  coast  it  is  not  uncommon  though 
local,  and  is  found  from  Belgaum  to  Travancore  and  Ceylon.  In 
the  thicker  forests  in  Kanara,  both  above  and  below  Ghats,  it  is 
generally  distributed,  and  in  the  Nilgiri  and  Pulney  Hills  is  common 
up  to  5000  and  3000  feet  respectively,  while  in  the  Travancor  Hills 
it  is  not  rare.  It  occurs  in  Mysore  and  Hyderabad  but  is  local. 
In  the  Himalayas  it  is  not  found  above  4000  feet.  Another  striking 
species  is  the  Blue-bearded  Bee-eater  (Alcemerops  aihertoni)  grass- 
green  in  colour  except  the  forehead,  throat  and  upper  breast  which 
are  blue.  It  is  a  forest  bird  found  from  Kuman  along  the  lower 
Himalayas  to  Assam  and  south  to  Tenasserim,  also  on  the  Malabar 
coast  from  Belgaum  to  Travancore,  and  has  occurred  in  south-west 
Behar  and  Orissa. 

Habits,  etc. — In  some  parts  of  its  range  in  South  India,  this 


THE    CHESTNUT-HEADED    BEE-EATER  299 

Bee-eater  is  locally  migratory.  No  birds  are  found  in  the  western 
slopes  of  the  Nilgiri  Hills  between  June  and  November,  and  in  Coorg 
large  flocks  seen  in  June  disappeared  by  the  end  of  the  month.  In 
the  non-breeding  season  the  species  is  met  with  in  small  parties  of 
from  four  to  eight  birds,  or  in  flocks  of  a  hundred  or  more.  As  a 
rule  it  is  restricted  to  forested  country  or  maidans  interspaced  with 
trees,  and  occasionally  frequents  the  vicinity  of  cultivated  areas 
surrounded  by  forests.  The  birds  roost  in  company  in  trees  or  in 
tall  reeds  on  river  banks,  and  towards  sunset  collect  in  flocks  preparatory 
to  settling  down  for  the  night.  At  this  time  they  behave  like  flocks 
of  starlings  and  there  is  much  calling  and  flying  about.  The  note 
is  not  to  be  distinguished  from  that  of  the  Blue-tailed  Bee -eater. 

The  eggs  are  laid  from  February  to  May,  according  to  the  latitude. 
The  nest  is  at  the  end  of  a  tunnel,  excavated  by  the  birds  themselves, 
and  is  an  enlarged  chamber  some  six  by  eight  inches  without  any 
nesting  material.  The  tunnel  is  about  two  inches  in  diameter  and 
varies  very  much  in  length  according  to  the  material  in  which  it  is 
excavated.  It  is  usually  from  three  to  eight  feet,  at  times  as  much 
as  ten  feet  when  in  soft  sand,  but  if  in  hard  earth  or  clay  it  may  not 
be  more  than  a  foot  or  so.  The  nests  are  generally  near  water,  in  a 
bank  of  a  river  or  stream,  and  sometimes  even  in  a  sandbank  in  a 
river.  Not  infrequently  the  birds  are  flooded  out  and  betake  them- 
selves to  nearby  nullahs  where  they  make  a  new  tunnel.  The  birds 
sit  very  close  and  both  remain  in  the  nesting  chamber  at  night. 
Sometimes  they  breed  in  colonies,  but  more  often  several  pairs  breed 
within  a  short  distance  of  one  another. 

The  eggs  are  four  to  eight  in  number,  pure  glossy  white. 

They  measure  0-87  by  0-76  inches. 


THE  PIED  KINGFISHER 
CERYLE  RUDIS  (Linnaeus) 

Description. — Length  12  inches.  Male :  Top  of  the  head  with 
a  small  crest  black  streaked  with  white  ;  a  conspicuous  white  line 
over  the  eye  ;  a  black  line  from  the  beak  through  the  eye  connecting 
with  a  narrow  black  line  to  the  black  gorget ;  an  indistinct  white 
collar  on  the  hind  neck ;  upper  plumage  mixed  black  and  white ; 
flight-feathers  white  with  irregular  black  bars ;  tail  white,  with  a 
broad  black  terminal  band  ;  lower  plumage  silvery-white  with  two 
black  gorgets  across  the  breast,  the  upper  being  the  broader ;  some 
black  spots  on  the  sides  of  the  throat  and  flanks. 

The  female  lacks  the  hinder  gorget  and  has  the  other  broken  in 
the  centre. 

Iris*  brown  ;  bill  and  legs  black. 


300  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

The  bill  is  long,  heavy  and  pointed  ;  the  feet  are  weak,  the  outer 
toe  being  largely  united  to  the  centre  toe. 

Field  Identification. — Common  plains  bird,  always  found  by  water, 
and  conspicuous  for  its  habit  of  hovering  and  plunging  for  fish.  Pied 
black  and  white  plumage,  with  a  big  sharp  bill. 

Distribution. — This  Kingfisher  has  a  wide  distribution  from  Egypt 
to  China,  but  in  India  we  are  concerned  only  with  the  race  C.  rudis 
leucomelanura,  which  is  found  practically  throughout  India,  Burma  and 
Ceylon  in  the  plains.  It  does  not  ascend  higher  than  about  2500  feet 
in  the  hill  ranges,  being  replaced  above  that  height  in  the  Himalayas  by 
the  larger  Himalayan  Pied  Kingfisher  (Ceryle  lugubris)  of  rather  similar 
coloration.  It  is  a  strictly  resident  species. 


FIG.  44 — Pied  Kingfisher     (J  nat.  size) 

Habits,  etc. — The  Pied  Kingfisher  is  to  be  found  in  the  plains 
wherever  "there  is  water,  except  in  the  midst  of  forest.  As  a  breeding 
species  it  is  largely  confined  to  the  banks  of  rivers,  but  having  a  voracious 
appetite  and  strong  flight  it  wanders  far  afield  and  appears  at  every  jheel 
and  tank,  also  to  some  extent  visiting  tidal  creeks  and  backwaters  where 
the  water  is  brackish  ;  in  places  it  may  even  be  found  on  the  seashore. 

In  such  situations  this  bird  may  readily  be  watched  at  its  fishing,  for 
it  is  very  common  and  its  diet  consists  entirely  of  small  fish.  It  flies 
over  the  Water  at  a  height  of  some  10  to  20  feet  above  the  surface,  and 
suddenly  catching  sight  of  a  shoal  of  fish  below  checks  itself  dead  in 
mid-air  and  hovers  with  the  wings  vibrating  rapidly  and  the  bill  pointing 
perpendicularly  downwards,  as  if  taking  aim.  From  this  position  it 
plunges  headlong  into  the  water,  and  if  the  aim  has  been  true  it  emerges 
with  a  small  fish  in  the  bill  and  flies  away  with  it,  uttering  cries  of  satis- 
faction ;  but  often  the  plunge  is  unsuccessful,  or  the  bird  checks  itself 
in  mid-dive  and  hovers  again,  or  goes  off  finally  without  diving  at  all. 
In  flight  a  sharp  querulous  twittering  cry  is  freely  uttered.  When  not 
fishing  the  bird  rests  on  a  high  bank  or  post,  and  these  favourite  perches 
are  often  marked  by  the  pellets  of  indigestible  fish-scales  which  the  bird 


THE    PIED    KINGFISHER  301 

disgorges,  like  the  castings  of  the  birds  of  prey.  When  resting  the  bird 
at  intervals  gives  its  tail  a  sharp  upward  flick. 

The  breeding  season  is  very  early,  commencing  about  December  and 
lasting  until  April.  The  eggs  are  laid  in  a  circular  chamber  at  the  end  of 
a  tunnel,  i  to  5  feet  long,  which  is  invariably  excavated  in  a  perpendicular 
bank  face  over  running  water.  There  is  no  nest,  but  the  floor  of  the 
egg-chamber  is  partly  covered  with  fish-scales  and  similar  debris  from 
broken-up  pellets. 

The  clutch  consists  of  four  to  six  eggs.  They  are  very  broad  ovals, 
often  almost  spherical,  of  a  hard  texture  with  a  high  gloss.  The  colour 
is  pure  china- white. 

They  average  about  1-20  by  0-95  inches  in  size. 


E  COMMON   KINGFISHER 


ALCEDO  ATTHIS  (Linnaeus) 

(Plate  xvii,  Fig.  5,  opposite  page  352) 

Description.  —  Length  7  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Top  of  the  head 
finely  banded  with  black  and  blue  ;  a  band  from  the  beak  below  the 
eye  to  the  side  of  the  neck  bright  ferruginous  ending  in  a  conspicuous 
white  patch  ;  a  black  mark  in  front  of  the  eye  ;  a  broad  moustachial 
stripe  bright  blue  ;  upper  plumage  bright  blue  becoming  greenish  on 
the  sides  and  wings  ;  hidden  portions  of  wings  and  underside  of  tail 
brown  ;  chin  and  throat  white  ;  remainder  of  lower  plumage  ferruginous. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  black,  sometimes  orange-red  at  lower  base  ; 
legs  coral-red,  claws  dusky. 

The  bill  is  long,  heavy  and  sharply  pointed  ;  the  feet  are  weak,  the 
3rd  and  4th  toes  being  partly  united. 

Field  Identification.  —  Generally  common  by  water  over  which  when 
disturbed  it  flies  low  and  fast,  uttering  a  hard  sharp  squeak  ;  a  small 
stout  bird  with  disproportionately  \Jarge^beak  and  brilliant  plumage, 
green  and  blue  above  and  chestnut^below^ 

Distribution.  —  The  Common  Kingfisher  is  a  widely-spread  species  in 
Europe,  Northern  Africa  and  Asia,  and  has  in  consequence  been  divided 
into  a  number  of  races  ;  of  these  we  are  concerned  with  three.  A.  a. 
pallasii  of  Western  Siberia  and  Persia  is  the  bird  which  is  so  common  in 
summer  about  the  waterways  and  lakes  of  Kashmir,  appearing  in  winter 
in  Baluchistan  and  as  far  as  Sind  in  the  plains.  A.  a.  bengalensis  is 
a  smaller  resident  species  throughout  the  plains  of  India,  except  in 
the  extreme  south,  occasionally  ascending  the  mountain  ranges  up 
to  a  height  of  about  6000  feet.  These  races  differ  only  in  size  but 
A.  c.  taprobanus  of  Ceylon  and  the  lower  part  of  Southern  India  is  a 
much  bluer  bird. 


302          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

A  much  larger  species  (length  15  inches)  with  a  very  heavy  beak  the 
Stork-billed  Kingfisher  (Ramphalcyon  capensis)  is  locally  distributed 
through  the  wetter  parts  of  India,  Ceylon,  Assam  and  Burma.  The  top 
of  the  head  is  brown,  a  collar  and  the  lower  parts  buffy  yellow  and  the 
back,  wings  and  tail  greenish-blue. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Common ^Kingfisher  is,  as  is  well  known,  purely  a 
water-bird,  frequenting  fresh  water  of  every  description,  and  occasion- 
ally also  wandering  to  the  confines  of  tidal  creeks  and  the  seashore.  %  Its 
food  consists  of  tiny  fishes  and  various  aquatic  insects,  larvae  and  other 
organisms. 

This  Kingfisher  usually  captures  its  food  by  plunging  obliquely  into 
the  water  from  an  overhanging  bough,  stump  or  clump  of  reeds  or 
similar  vantage  point  on  which  it  sits  motionless  waiting  for  something 
to  come  within  its  reach  ;  but  at  times  it  hovers  over  open  water  with 
the  body  erect  at  right  angles  to  the  surface,  and  some  10  to  15  feet 
above  it,  and  from  this  position  dives  perpendicularly  into  the  water. 

The  flight  is  very  swift  and  straight,  generally  low  above  the  surface 
of  the  water,  and  as  the  bird  goes  it  utters  a  loud  call  cKkee  which  draws 
attention  to  the  short  shuttle-shaped  form  and  brilliant  colours  of  the 
passing  bird.  It  is  a  very  pugnacious  species,  and  once  a  pair  have 
established  their  right  to  a  stretch  of  water  they  are  very  intolerant  of 
the  presence  of  others  of  their  kind. 

The  breeding  season  is  rather  irregular,  but  the  majority  of  eggs  will 
be  found  from  March  to  June. 

The  nest  is  excavated  in  the  face  of  a  perpendicular  bank,  generally 
at  the  edge  of  water,  but  occasionally  at  a  considerable  distance  from  it. 
The  entrance  tunnel  is  anything  up  to  3  feet  in  length,  and  is  very 
narrow,  about  ^  inches  in  diameter  ;  it  terminates  in  a  circular  chamber 
some  5  inches  in  diameter  and  3  or  4  inches  in  height.  The  chamber  and ' 
passage  always  contain  minute  fish  bones  disgorged  by  the  birds,  but  no 
nest  is  constructed,  the  eggs  lying  merely  on  the  floor  of  the  chamber. 

The  clutch  consists  of  five  to  seven  eggs.  These  are  almost  spherical 
in  shape,  pure  unmarked  china-white  in  colour,  of  hard  texture  with  a 
high  gloss. 

In  size  they  average  about  o(8  by  0*7  inches. 


THE    WHITE-BREASTED    KINGFISHER  303 

THE  WHITE-BREASTED  KINGFISHER 

HALCYON  SMYRNENSIS  (Linnaeus) 
(Plate  xvii,  Fig.  3,  opposite  page  352) 

Description. — Length  n  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Head,  neck  and 
lower  plumage  deep  chestnut-brown,  with  a  conspicuous  white  patch 
extending  over  the  chin,  throat  and  central  breast ;  remainder  of  upper 
plumage  blue,  tinged  with  greenish,  a  blackish  band  along  the  side  of 
the  wing  ;  flight-feathers  black  with  a  conspicuous  white  patch  towards 
their  base. 

Iris  brown  ;  bill  dark  dull  red  ;  legs  coral-red,  claws  dusky. 

The  bill  is  long,  very  heavy  and  pointed  ;  the  feet  are  weak,  the 
2nd  and  3rd  toes  being  partly  joined  together. 

Field  Identification. — Found  over  water  or  land  indifferently,  and  one 
of  the  most  characteristic  birds  of  the  plains.  Noisy,  and  conspicuous 
with  the  heavy  red  beak,  the  white  breast-patch  set  in  deep  chestnut 
and  the  greenish-blue  upper  parts ;  in  flight  the  white  wing-patch  is 
very  noticeable,  as  is  the  large  beak. 

Distribution. — This  handsome  bird  has  an  immense  range  from  Asia 
Minor  through  Persia,  India,  Ceylon,  Burma,  and  the  Malay  Peninsula 
to  Southern  China.  Of  the  races  into  which  it  is  divided  we  are  con- 
cerned with  two.  The  typical  form,  H.  s.  smyrnensis,  is  found  through- 
out India  except  in  Travancore  where  it  is  replaced  by  H.  s.  fusca  of 
Ceylon  which  is  a  darker  chocolate-brown  and  a  bluer  green  in  colour. 
This  species  wanders  occasionally  into  the  Himalayas  and  other  ranges 
up  to  a  height  of  6000  feet.  It  is  strictly  resident. 

Habits,  etc. — While  the  other  Kingfishers  described  in  this  work 
are  purely  water-birds,  living  chiefly  on  fish,  this  very  typical  King- 
fisher is  mainly  a  land  bird  and  feeds  largely  on  insects,  lizards,  frogs 
and  such  small  fry,  which  it  captures  after  the  manner  of  a  Roller, 
flying  down  to  them  on  the  ground  from  an  elevated  perch.  It  is 
said  very  occasionally  both  to  plunge  into  water  after  fish  and  has 
been  observed  diving  after  fresh-water  crabs  which  it  beats  to  pulp 
before  swallowing,  also  to  take  insects  on  the  wing.  The  flight  is 
strong  and  direct,  and  on  the  wing  a  loud  screaming  cry  is  uttered 
which  is  one  of  the  familiar  sounds  of  India.  This  species  avoids 
heavy  forest  and  actual  desert  areas,  but  is  found  in  every  other  type 
of  country,  either  wet  or  dry. 

The  breeding  season  lasts  from  March  to  July.  The  eggs  are  laid 
in  the  usual  chamber  at  the  end  of  a  tunnel,  which,  as  in  the  case  of 
the  other  species,  is  excavated  in  the  faces  of  banks  and  borrow-pits, 
usually,  but  by  no  means  always,  in  the  vicinity  of  water.  The  shafts 
of  unbricked  wells  are  sometimes  selected  as  a  nesting  site. 


304          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDAIN    BIRDS 

The  eggs  are  four  to  seven  in  number.  They  are  almost  spherical 
in  shape,  pure  unmarked  china-white  in  colour,  with  a  hard  texture  and 
high  gloss.  As  incubation  proceeds  they  lose  their  gloss  and  become 
stained,  and  are  sometimes  covered  with  small  black  spots  apparently 
the  excreta  of  parasites. 

In  size  they  average  1-15  by  1-05  inches. 


THE  GREAT  HORNBILL 

DICHOCEROS  BICORNIS  (Linnaeus) 

Description. — Length  52  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Head  black  ;  neck 
fulvescent  white  ;  upper  plumage  and  wings  black,  a  broad  white 
bar  across  the  wing  and  all  the  quills  with  their  bases  and  ends  white  ; 
tail  and  its  upper  and  under  coverts  white,  a  broad  black  band  near 
the  end  of  the  tail ;  breast  black  ;  abdomen  white. 

Iris,  male  blood-red*,  female  pearly  white  ;  bill  and  casque  yellow, 
tinged  with  red  at  the  tip  and  with  orange  in  the  middle.  In  the  male 
the  front  and  back  of  the  casque  are  black,  together  with  the  ridge 
of  the  bill  just  in  front  of  the  casque.  In  the  female  the  back  of  the 
casque  is  red.  Bare  skin  round  the  eye  fleshy  pink,  eyelids  black  ; 
legs  greenish  plumbeous. 

Bill  large,  stout  and  much  curved.  A  broad  casque  covering  the 
head  and  the  base  of  the  bill,  broad,  flattened  and  rounded  behind 
rising  at  the  sides  and  projecting  in  two  points  in  front.  Conspicuous 
eyelashes.  Tail  long  and  rounded.  Toes  joined  at  their  base. 

Field  Identification. — Western  Ghats  and  Lower  Himalayas  only. 
A  large  ungainly  forest  bird  of  black  and  white  plumage,  unmistakable 
from  the  heavy  double  casque  over  the  huge  curved  beak.  Very  noisy 
and  in  flight  recognisable  by  the  noise  made  by  the  wings.  The  white 
neck  suffices  to  distinguish  this  species  from  the  smaller  black  and 
white  Hornbills  of  the  genus  Hydrocissa  found  in  the  Western  Ghats, 
Peninsular  India  and  the  Himalayas  which  have  the  neck  black  and 
the  casque  single. 

Distribution. — Widely  distributed  from  India,  Assam  and  Burma 
through  the  Malay  Peninsula  to  Sumatra.  All  but  Sumatran  birds 
belong  to  the  typical  race.  In  India  this  is  confined  to  the  Western 
Ghats  from  near  Bombay  to  Cape  Comorin  and  to  the  lower  Himalayan 
ranges  up  to  5000  feet  from  Kumaon  eastwards. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Great  Hornbill  is  a  forest  bird  and  generally 
keeps  to  the  largest  trees  where  it  may  be  found  in  parties  of  half  a 
dozen  birds  or  upwards.  It  is  difficult  to  overlook  the  presence  of 
this  species.  In  flight  it  may  be  heard  a  mile  away  by  the  loud  droning 
noise  of  the  air  rushing  through  the  base  of  the  outer  wing-quills 


THE    GREAT    HORNBILL 


305 


which  are  not  fully  covered  by  their  under-covert  feathers  in  the 
usual  manner.  In  a  tree  they  are  noisy,  apt  to  indulge  in  the  most 
extraordinary  rattling  roars,  cacklings  and  bellows. 

The  flight  is  an  alternation  of  a  series  of  flapping  of  the  wings 
and  of  sailing  with  the  wings  motionless,  but  the  flapping  predominates 
and  the  flight  is  less  undulating  than  in  some  of  the  other  species  of 
.Hornbill. 


FIG.  45 — Great  Hornbill    (J  nat.  size) 

The  food  mainly  consists  of  fruit  and  this  is  picked  with  the  tip 
of  the  bill,  jerked  into  the  air  and  caught  in  the  throat  and  swallowed. 
These  Hornbills  are,  however,  omnivorous  feeders  and  readily  take 
insects,  lizards,  grain  and  other  food,  all  of  which  is  jerked  into  the 
air  and  caught  in  the  manner  described. 

Nothing  is  known  about  the  purpose  of  the  curious  casque,  which 
is  not  solid  but  cellular  and  partly  hollow  in  structure.  Captive  birds 
are  said  to  be  very  destructive,  using  the  bill  as  a  pickaxe — if  this 

U 


306  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

habit  is  general  in  the  wild  state  it  is  possible  that  the  casque  is  in 
the  nature  of  a  shock-absorber. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  January  to  April.  The  breeding 
habits  do  not  appear  to  differ  in  any  important  detail  from  those 
described  at  length  under  the  Grey  Hornbill.  The  same  nest  hole 
is  used  year  after  year  for  long  periods. 

The  eggs  vary  in  shape  from  very  broad  ovals,  obtuse  at  both 
ends  to  moderately  elongated  ovals,  distinctly  pointed  at  the  small 
end.  The  shell  is  tolerably  hard  and  compact  but  is  very  commonly 
covered  with  tiny  pimples  and  roughnesses  and  in  most  specimens 
the  entire  surface  is  somewhat  conspicuously  pitted  with  pores.  The 
colour  is  pure  white  with  a  certain  amount  of  gloss,  but  as  the  interior 
of  the  nest  is  intolerably  dirty  the  eggs  become  dirty  and  stained  to  a 
uniform  chocolate-brown. 

They  measure  about  2-60  by  1-88  inches. 


THE   GREY  HORNBILL 

TOCKUS  BIROSTRIS  (Scopoli) 

Description. — Length  24  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Upper  plumage 
light  brownish -grey,  with  pale  whitish  streaks  over  the  eyes  ;  the 
cheek  and  ear-coverts  blackish-grey ;  flight-feathers  dark  brown, 
fringed  and  tipped  with  grey  or  white  ;  tail  long  and  graduated, 
brown,  each  feather  with  a  broad  sub-terminal  darker  band  glossed 
with  green  and  a  white  tip  ;  chin  to  the  breast  grey  merging  into 
white  on  the  abdomen. 

Iris  red-brown  ;  bill  black,  whitish  about  tip  ;  feet  dark  plumbeous. 

Bill  large,  curved  and  laterally  compressed,  with  a  small  pointed 
spur  above,  known  as  a  casque  ;  eyelids  furnished  with  lashes. 

Field  Identification. — A  large  ungainly  grey  bird  with  a  long 
graduated  tail  and  a  small  pointed  casque  on  the  top  of  the  narrow 
curved  beak.  Arboreal  plains  species,  with  a  peculiar  squealing  cry. 

Distribution. — A  purely  Indian  species.  It  is  found  from  the 
base  of  the  Himalayas  at  about  2000  feet  throughout  the  better  wooded 
parts  of  India,  except  from  Bombay  to  Travancore  along  the  Malabar 
Coast  where  it  is  replaced  by  an  allied  species,  the  Malabar  Grey 
Hornbill  (Tockus  griseus),  which  lacks  the  casque  on  the  beak.  It  is 
absent  from  the  North-west  Frontier  Province,  the  Northern  and 
Western  Punjab,  Sind,  and  portions  of  Eastern  Rajputana.  It  is  rare 
in  the  Gangetic  delta  of  Lower  Bengal  which  forms  its  eastern  boundary. 
A  resident  species. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Grey  Hornbill  is  an  entirely  arboreal  species, 
which  is  found  about  old  trees  in  well-timbered,  fairly  open  country, 


THE    GREY    HORNBILL 


307 


coming  into  gardens  and  avenues,  and  avoiding  thick  forest.  It  is 
found  in  small  parties  which  fly  about  from  bough  to  bough,  eating 
the  various  species  of  wild  figs  and  other  fruits  and  seeds,  green  leaves, 
and  a  certain  quantity  of  insects,  such  as  hornets.  When  flying  from 
tree  to  tree  across  the  open  the  flight  is  heavy  and  undulating  with 
alternating  flappings  and  glidings,  and  all  the  movements  of  the  bird 
are  clumsy  and  ungainly.  The  cry  is  a  harsh  squeal,  distinctly 
reminiscent  of  that  of  the  Common  Kite. 

The  breeding  season  is  from  April  to  June,  and,  like  other  Hornbills, 
this  species  is  chiefly  remarkable  for  its  curious  nesting  arrangements. 

The  eggs  are  laid  without  the  construction  of  any  nest  in  a  large 
hole  in  the  trunk  of  a  tree,  at  any  height  from  10  feet  upwards.  The 


FIG.  46 — Grey  Hornbill     (J  nat.  size) 

cotton  tree  or  the  peepul  is  usually  selected.  When  ready  to  lay  the 
female  enters  the  nest-hole  and  remains  therein  until  the  young  are 
about  a  week  old.  She  spends  the  first  two  or  three  days  in  plastering 
up  the  entrance  to  the  hole  with  her  own  ordure,  which  is  very  viscid 
and  strong  and  hardens  into  a  clay-like  substance.  For  this  work  she 
uses  the  flattened  sides  of  her  beak  as  a  trowel. 

When  the  work  is  completed  only  a  narrow  vertical  slit  is  leftr 
about  the  width  of  a  man's  finger  and  two  or  three  inches  deep.  After 
this  the  droppings  are  thrown  out  daily  through  the  slit.  The  female 
is  now  completely  a  prisoner  and  is  dependent  on  the  male  for  all  her 
food.  This  he  brings  held  in  his  beak  ;  he  perches  on  a  neighbouring 
bough  and  then  flies  to  the  entrance  of  the  nest  hollow,  where  he 
clings  with  his  claws  to  the  bark  and  feeds  the  female  who  extrudes 
the  point  of  her  beak  through  the  slit  to  receive  the  food.  This  habit 


308  POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

is  perhaps  responsible  for  the  curious  fact,  observed  in  captivity  with 
reference  to  some  species  of  Hornbill,  and  perhaps  connected  with 
all,  that  at  intervals  the  epithelial  layer  of  the  gizzard  is  cast  in  the 
form  of  a  closed  sack  containing  the  seeds  of  fruit  on  which  the  bird 
has  been  feeding. 

During  the  period  spent  incubating  in  the  nest  the  female  becomes 
very  fat  and  dirty,  and  on  first  emergence  is  so  stiff  that  she  can  hardly 
fly.  In  some  species  of  Hornbill  the  moult  apparently  takes  place 
during  the  period  of  imprisonment. 

The  clutch  varies  from  one  to  five  eggs. 

The  eggs  are  broad  rather  perfect  ovals,  very  fine  and  smooth  in 
texture  and  without  gloss.  They  are  a  dull  uniform  white  with  a 
creamy  tinge,  and  naturally  become  somewhat  discoloured  as  incubation 
progresses. 

In  size  they  average  about  1-7  by  1-22  inches. 


THE    HOOPOE 
UPUPA  EPOPS  Linnaeus 

Description. — Length  12  inches.  Sexes  alike.  Head  and  a  long 
fan-shaped  crest,  the  feathers  increasing  in  length  from  front  to  back, 
rufous-fawn,  the  feathers  of  the  crest  broadly  tipped  with  white  and 
black ;  back  and  sides  of  the  neck  and  a  broad  patch  across  the 
shoulders  to  the  bend  of  the  wing  dull  ashy-fawn  colour ;  remainder 
of  the  back  broadly  banded  with  black  and  fawny-white,  the  bands 
continuing  across  the  wing-coverts  ;  quills  of  the  wing  and  tail  black,  ' 
the  primaries  with  a  white  band  across  their  tips,  the  secondaries  with 
three  or  four  white  bands  evenly  distributed  throughout  their  length, 
and  the  tail  with  a  single  white  chevron-shaped  band  near  the  centre  ; 
chin  whitish  ;  throat  and  breast  pale  rufous-fawn,  ashy  on  the  sides 
of  the  breast ;  remainder  of  the  lower  plumage  white,  largely  streaked 
with  black  and  ashy-grey. 

Iris  red-brown ;  bill  horny-black,  fleshy  at  lower  base ;  legs 
plumbeous-slate. 

The  bill  is  long,  slender  and  curved,  with  a  very  short  tongue  ', 
wing  rounded. 

Field  Identification. — The  fawn-coloured  plumage  and  the  black 
wings  and  tail,  banded  with  white,  the  long  curved  bill,  and  the  broad 
fan-shaped  crest,  freely  lowered  and  raised,  put  the  identity  of  this 
species  beyond  all  doubt  at  the  first  glance. 

Distribution. — Widely  distributed  in  Europe,  Africa  and  Asia, 
the  Hoopoe  is  divided  into  a  number  of  sub-species,  of  which  we 


PLATE  XV 


I 

EC 


2 
O 


[Face  p.  308 


THE    HOOPOE 


309 


are  concerned  with  three ;  these  are  not  very  easily  recognised,  and 
vary  in  small  details  of  size  and  coloration.  U.  e.  orientalis  is  the 
resident  species  of  Northern  India,  and  southwards  it  shades  about 
the  Bombay  Presidency  into  U.  e.  ceylonensis  which  extends  to  Ceylon, 
and  is  also  a  resident  bird.  The  typical  form  U.  e.  epops  breeds  in 
the  Himalayas  and  in  winter  migrates  southwards  into  the  plains  ; 
at  that  season  it  is  common  in  Sind,  the  Punjab  and  the  United 
Provintes.  The  typical  race  has  a  patch  of  white  in  the  longer  feathers 
of  the  crown  between  the  fawn  and  the  black,  this  colour  being  either 
absent  or  only  represented  by  a  slight  trace  in  the  two  resident  races, 


FIG.  47 — Hoopoe     (£  nat.  size) 

which  are  also  slightly  smaller.  The  southern  bird  is  also  more  richly 
coloured. 

Mention  must  be  made  of  two  .curious  birds — the  Red-headed 
Trogon  (Harpactes  erythrocephalus)  of  the  Eastern  Himalayas  and 
Assam  and  the  Malabar  Trogon  (Harpactes  fasciatus)  from  the 
Malabar  Coast  and  the  Chota  Nagpur  area.  The  male  of  the  former 
is  rose-pink  and  chestnut;  the  male  of  the  latter  is  chestnut  with  a 
black  head  and  red  belly.  They  are  arboreal  birds  with  soft  mewing 
calls  and  remarkable  for  soft  dense  plumage  and  long  square-ended 
tails. 

Habits,  etc. — The  Hoopoe  avoids  areas  of  thick  forest  and  is 
found  very  commonly  in  open  country,  mdfe  especially'  in  the  neigh- 
bourhood of  groves  of  trees,  thin  scrub-forest,  and  the  outskirts  of 

- --  --------  •  --'•" " '    " uV 


310          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

villages  where  it  frequents  mud-walls  and  deserted  or  ruined  buildings 
It  feeds  almost  entirely  on  the  ground  and  is  very  partial  to-grassy 
lawns,  the  neighbourhood  of  avenues  and  other  similar  localities 
favourable  to  the  various  ground-feeding  larvae  which  form  the  greater 
portion  of  its  food.  It  walks  and  runs  with  great  ease  and  methodically 
quarters  the  ground,  probing  the  roots  of  grass  and  the  interstices  of 
the  soil  or  turning  over  leaves  and  rubbish  for  the  insects,  caterpillars 
and  grubs  that  shelter  there.  When  disturbed  it  flies  up  into  tree^s  or 
on  to  buildings,  but  does  not  usually  feed  anywhere  except  on  the 
ground. 

While  feeding  the  crest  is  depressed  and  closed,  but  it  invariably 
erects  it  for  a  moment  on  settling  after  flight.  Ordinarily  the  flight 
is  slow  and  hesitating  with  a  good  deal  of  undulation  as  if  the  bird 
were  uncertain  of  its  destination  ;  but  its  extended  migrations  and 
wanderings  show  that  this  weakness  is  only  apparent,  and  the  bird 
has  no  difficulty  in  avoiding  capture  by  trained  falcons,  mounting 
easily  into  the  air  away  from  them. 

The  call  is  a  loud  rather  mellow  hoot  or  hud  repeated  two  or  three 
times,  which  has  given  rise  to  the  names  current  in  various  languages, 
all  onomatopoeic  in  origin.  There  is  also  a  harsh  grating  note  which 
is  generally  used  at  the  nest. 

The  presence  of  definite  names  for  this  species  in  numerous 
languages  indicates  the  hold  that  the  Hoopoe  has  obtained  on  the 
imagination  and  interest  of  man  from  the  earliest  ages  ;  nor  is  this 
strange  in  view  of  its  tame  disposition  and  striking  appearance. 

Realistic  portraits  of  the  Hoopoe  have  been  found  in  mural  paintings 
both  of  ancient  Egypt  and  of  Crete,  and  from  that  time  onwards 
mention  of  the  bird  runs  through  literature  and  legend  to  the  present 
day.  In  Western  legend  the  bird  is  most  familiar  as  the  form  assumed 
by  Jereus,  King  of  Crete,  for  his  punishment ;  while  Mohammedan 
countries  regard  the  bird  as  the  favourite  and  confidante  of  Solomon 
whose  magnificence  dowered  its  crown.  The  Hoopoe  is  the  Lapwing 
of  the  Bible.  The  most  prominent  attribute  of  the  bird,  however,  in 
literature,  is  its  use  in  magical  or  medical  prescriptions  ;  use  of  its 
different  parts  is  recommended  by  various  authors,  most  frequently 
in  connection  with  visions  or  the  power  of  memory,  from  Egyptian 
days  down  to  the  Pharmacopoeia  Univer sails  of  Dr  R.  James  (1752). 

The  breeding  season  extends  from  February  to  July,  but  the 
majority  of  nests  will  be  found  in  April  and  May. 

The  nest  is  a  very  poor  affair,  being  merely  a  slight  collection  of 
grass,  hair,  leaves  or  feathers,  placed  roughly  on  the  floor  of  the  hole 
selected.  For  the  site  the  chief  requisite  is  darkness,  and  the  bird 
nests  in  holes  of  every  sort,  in  trees,  walls  and  roofs,  or  even  on  the 
floor  in  closed  and  deserted  huts. 

When  breeding  the  female  develops  an  unpleasant  smell,  and  as 


THE    HOOPOE  311 

she  seldom  leaves  the  nest,  being  largely  fed  therein  by  the  male,  and 
never  cleans  it  out  when  the  young  are  hatched,  the  nest  becomes 
very  offensive  and  smelly ;  this  fact  was  well  known  to  the  classical 
authors,  and  doubtless  accounts  for  the  Hoopoe  being  "  unclean  "  in 
the  Jewish  law. ,_  It-is,  however,  freely  eaten  by_.  Christian  populations 

in  Southern  Europe.    s  ~ 

— The-' "clutch "  varies  from  three  to  ten  eggs,  and  as  incubation 
commericSs  with  the  laying  of  the  first  eggs,  there  is  generally  a  good 
deal  of  variation  in  the  size  of  the  young  in  a  nest. 

The  egg  is  a  rather  lengthened  oval,  often  somewhat  pointed  at 
the  smaller  end,  and  sometimes  also  at  the  broader  end  as  well.  The 
texture  is  smooth  and  hard  and  without  gloss.  There  are  no  markings, 
and  the  colour,  when  fresh,  varies  from  pale  greenish-blue  to  pale 
olive-brown,  though  as  incubation  progresses  the  eggs  become  stained 
a  dirty  brown. 

The  egg  averages  about  i-oo  by  0-66  inches  in  size. 


THE   INDIAN   SWIFT 
MICROPUS  AFFINIS  (Gray) 

Description. — Length  6  inches.  Sexes  alike.  A  broad  white  band 
across  the  rump,  and  the  chin  and  throat  white,  the  feathers  more  or 
less  dark-shafted  ;  remainder  of  the  plumage  dark  blackish- brown, 
somewhat  glossy,  paler  on  the  top  of  the  head  and  under  the  tail, 
and  with  a  deep  black  spot  in  front  of  the  eye. 

Iris  dark  brown  ;  bill  black  ;  legs  vinous-brown. 

Bill  short  and  hooked  with  an  excessively  broad  gape  ;  wings 
stiff  and  sickle-shaped,  specialised  for  great  speed ;  tail  short  and 
rather  deeply  forked ;  feet  weak  and  adapted  to  clinging  to  perpendicular 
surfaces,  the  four  toes  being  directed  forwards,  though  the  first  is 
more  or  less  reversible. 

Field  Identification. — A  small  black  bird  with  a  white  rump,  entirely 
aerial  and  gregarious  in  its  habits,  the  narrow  sickle-shaped  wings 
indicating  the  extreme  specialisation  of  its  structure.  Abundant  over 
towns  and  villages. 

Distribution. — From  North-western  Africa  through  South-eastern 
Asia,  India,  Ceylon  and  Burma  to  the  Malay  Peninsula.  It  is  divided 
into  races,  of  which  we  are  concerned  merely  with  the  typical  race. 
This  is  found  throughout  India  and  Ceylon,  very  common  in  some 
places  and  wanting  in  others,  with  no  apparent  reason  for  its  capricious 
distribution.  In  the  Himalayas  it  is  not  common,  but  may  be  found 


312          POPULAR    HANDBOOK    OF    INDIAN    BIRDS 

up  to  a  height  of  6000  feet.    It  is  locally  migratory,  but  information 
on  this  point  is  sadly  defective. 

A  similar  but  larger  species,  the  White-rumped  Swift  (Micropus 
pacificus)  is  found  along  the  Himalayas  and  in  Assam,  and  with  it  in 
the  Western  Hi